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JOHN SEVIER 
AS A COMMONWEALTH-BUILDER 



" One age moves onward, and the next builds up 
Cities and gorgeous palaces, where stood 
The rude log huts of those who tamed the wild ; 
Rearing from out the forests they had felled 
The goodly framework of a fairer state." 

James Russell Lowell 










^#i^ 







flF 




^ 



JOHN SEVIER 



AS A COMMONWEALTH-BUILDER 



A SEQUEL TO 

THE REARGUARD OP THE REVOLUTION 



BY 



JAMES R. GILMORE 

(edmuxd kirke) 

AUTHOR OF " THE REAR-GUARD OF THE REVOLUTION, 11 
" AMONG THE PINES, 11 ETC. 



MAY 14 1887 \ f 



I 



11<-/ 



„-< 



NEW YORK 
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 

1887 




MAP (QjJF 
Places refered to in 

"John Sevier, 

N)e C°mrr|onn?ealth builder. " 
?ron\ J\arr\5eY'5 \naa^5 °f T e in e 55 6e " 









Copyright, 1S87, 
B* D. APPLETON AND COMPANY. 






PKEFACE. 



The materials from which this volume has been con- 
structed have been, in part, the same as those I employed 
in writing a preceding book upon the same subject, un- 
der the title of "The Eear-Guard of the Revolution." 
But this work goes over later and more thoroughly tilled 
ground than that, and hence I have had for it a wider 
range of authorities. 

Briefly stated, my sources of information have been, 
first and primarily, lengthy conversations with Dr. J. G. 
M. Ramsey, of Knoxville, Tennessee, during which his 
" Annals of Tennessee " was used somewhat in the man- 
ner of a text-book — Dr. Eamsey pointing out its inaccu- 
racies, amplifying its narrative with interesting details, 
and relating to me such additional facts as he had gath- 
ered during the nearly thirty years since the writing of 
his history. He was a man of rare culture and trained 
intellect, and, by the character of his mind, was pecul- 
iarly qualified for historical investigation. When I knew 
him, he had given fifty years of his life to the study of 
this subject. 



vi PEEFACE. 

Next in importance as authorities, I rank the tradi- 
tions which I gathered, during the years from 1880 to 
1884, by a systematic inquiry among the descendants of 
the men whose deeds I have recorded. The descendants 
whom I met numbered half a hundred, and nearly a 
score of them were aged men, who, in their boyhood, 
had personally known Sevier and many of his compatri- 
ots. Their accounts I have compared carefully with one 
another, and verified by all the means at my command. 
It is my sincere conviction that — in the form they are 
stated in this book — they may be safely accepted as au- 
thentic history. Among many there is a prejudice 
against tradition as a foundation for historical writing ; 
but it should be borne in mind that most history is, and 
was, originally tradition. By tradition I do not mean 
rumor, but those carefully treasured accounts of striking 
events and heroic exploits, in the lives of our forefathers, 
which are handed down with religious care from father 
to son in all families having a proper pride in their an- 
cestry. Upon some such traditions were undoubtedly 
based all but one of the biographies we have of the great- 
est character in history ; and my investigations into the 
present subject have given me a singular light upon the 
manner in which at least two of those histories, and the 
introductory portion of another, must have been con- 
structed. The three synoptic gospels accord wonderfully 
in their reports of the spoken words of Christ, but they 
differ considerably as to the circumstances attending 
some of the important events which they relate. In a 



PREFACE. v ii 

similar manner, striking speeches, which in this and the 
previous volume I have put into the mouths of Sevier, 
Shelby, and Eobertson, have been repeated to me alike, 
word for word, by half a dozen separate narrators, while 
the same persons have differed widely in their narrative 
of events — in some instances so widely that the accounts 
can not be reconciled, and I have been obliged to dis- 
card them all. 

I have also been aided in my understanding of events 
by visits to all the principal localities I have mentioned, 
and by mingling freely with the men who are descend- 
ants of the early settlers, and have inherited many of 
their great qualities. 

Of written authorities I have, I think, consulted all 
that bear upon my subject. Among other books, I have 
carefully examined Albach's "Western Annals"; Mo- 
nette's "Valley of the Mississippi"; Haywood's "His- 
tory of Tennessee " ; A. W. Putnam's " History of Mid- 
dle Tennessee"; Prof. W. W. Clayton's "History of 
Davidson County, Tennessee"; Francis Baily's "Jour- 
ney through the Unsettled Parts of North America in 
1796-1797"; the Rev. T. W. Hume's (Knoxville) "Cen- 
tennial Address" ; the volumes of the "Columbian Mag- 
azine" from 1785-1797; a file of the "Knoxville Ga- 
zette "from 1791-1796 (kindly forwarded to me, across 
a thousand miles of country, by the Tennessee Historical 
Society) ; and, in addition, through the courtesy of 
Prof. Johnson T. Piatt and Addison Van Name, Esq. , I 
have had access to the very complete collection of Colo- 



v iii PKEFACE. 



nial and Kevolutionary newspapers contained in the li- 
brary of Yale University. 

I have also received essential aid from Mrs. William 
O'Neil Perkins, of Franklin, Tennessee, who has fur- 
nished me with very many letters from John Sevier to 
his son, George Washington Sevier ; various written state- 
ments of fact by her father, the historian of Middle Ten- 
nessee ; and other documents that have helped to make 
the present volume more full and accurate. This lady 
has the peculiar honor to be the great-granddaughter of 
General John Sevier, the hero of King's Mountain, and 
also of General Israel Putnam, the hero of Bunker Hill.' 
She is also the granddaughter of Colonel George Wash- 
ington Sevier, and the daughter of Colonel A. W. Put- 
nam, of Nashville — a pedigree more to be valued than a 
descent from kings. To her my acknowledgments are 
strongly due ; and also to the Hon. John M. Lea, the 
President, and to Anson Nelson, Esq., the Secretary, of 
the Tennessee Historical Society, for their hearty interest 
and co-operation in my work ; as well as to the Society 
itself, for its public indorsement of the accuracy and 
value of my previous volume. 

And now I beg to say a few words of an explanatory 
character. In the course of this volume I speak in con- 
demnatory terms of two enemies of Sevier, Joseph Martin 
and John Tipton. I have quoted some of Martin's let- 
ters ; and they are enough to show that he was a treach- 
erous friend and a self-seeking demagogue. My charac- 
terization of Tipton is based upon the facts I relate of 



PREFACE. ix 

him, every one of which, is abundantly authenticated. 
My opinion of him accords with that of Dr. J. G. M. 
Eamsey ; but it is not universal among Tennesseeans. 
To be assured that I was correct in my estimate of the 
man, I have sent my manuscript to one of the first ju- 
rists of Tennessee, who is, no doubt, better acquainted 
with the history of the State than any one now in it ; 
and his reply shows that he does not take my view of 
Tipton's character. He writes : " Tipton was always re- 
garded as a rough and uneducated, but a brave and 
honorable man. I know many of the family, and to a 
man they are courageous and true ; but self-willed, im- 
pulsive, and imperious. You may be correct in your con- 
ception of his character ; but, if anybody else than one 
who had investigated the subject were to write of Tipton 
as you have done, I should think he had misconceived 
his character, or, rather, had magnified its objectionable 
features." I regret that I can not make my views of 
Tipton accord with those of this gentleman. I differ 
from him with much reluctance, and only after much 
questioning of my own judgment; but, while I would 
"gently scan my brother man," I can not, in the face 
of incontestable facts, come to any other conclusion 
about Tipton than the one I have stated in this his- 
tory. However, if my judgment upon him is too harsh, 
it will not stand ; and, also, new facts may yet be dis- 
covered to compel a more favorable view of his char- 
acter. 

Before I began this book I intended to include in it 



x PREFACE. 

an account of the remarkable career of James Robertson 



but I soon discovered that I could not so condense my 
material as to make that possible. That work, therefore, 
I have to reserve for another volume. 

This is all I have to say, except that I wish my book 
were worthier of my subject. It is only as good as my 
poor ability and the limited time at my disposal have 
enabled me to make it ; but, just as it is, I commit it 
to public scrutiny, in the hope that it may awaken an 
interest in the great character it attempts to delineate, 
and lead other and abler historical writers to investigate 
his career, and do more efficient justice to his memory. 

James R. Gilmoke. 

(Edmund Kirke.) 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGK 

The Actors in this History 1 

The thirteen colonies, as characterized by Rev. Hugh Jones 
in 1750 — Early settlers of North Carolina — Bancroft's report of 
them — The character of a majority of the people — A better 
class settled in Wake, Orange, and Mecklenburg Counties — 
The first trans-AUeghany settlers a different people — Their char- 
acter and history — Their great achievements largely due to the 
remarkable character of John Sevier — His early history, and 
singular ascendency over men. 



CHAPTER II. 

The First Secession 19 

No sympathy between North Carolina and the western set- 
tlers — Condition of the States at the close of the Revolution- 
Extent of western territory belonging to North Carolina — 
Powers of Congress under the first Confederation — North Caro- 
lina cedes her western territory to Congress — Consternation of 
the western people — Threatened by enemies without and within 
— Meeting of settlers and call for a convention, which resolves 
to form a State government — North Carolina repeals the ces- 
sion act, and concedes the demands of the settlers — The con- 
cessions not generally satisfactory — Sevier opposes secession, 



xii CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

but is borne along with the current — John Tipton an ardent 
secessionist — His character — The mistake of Sevier — Reasons 
for his action — State of franklin formed, Sevier elected Gov- 
ernor, and John Tipton and Joseph Martin left out in the cold. 

CHAPTER III. 

TnE Aboetive Commonwealth 35 

Extent and population of the seceded territory — The task be- 
fore Sevier — He brings order out of disorder — Establishes a 
currency — Invites the Cherokees to a treaty — Disaffection of the 
Cherokees — Unwise effort of Governor Martin to pacify them — 
Sevier's treaty with them at Dumplin Creek, which secures a 
large accession of territory — Belligerent manifesto of Governor 
Martin — Sevier's reply to Governor Caswell — Caswell's letter to 
Sevier — Prosperity of Franklin — Backwater settlements seek 
annexation to Franklin — Action of Joseph Martin — He secures 
the treaty of Hopewell — Its injurious character — " Talk " of the 
Cherokee king to Governor Caswell — Martin's treachery and 
betrayal of Sevier. 

CHAPTER IY. 

The Beginning of Troubles 64 

Meeting of the Constitutional Convention — Houston's Utopian 
Constitution — Tipton's sudden conversion to North Carolina — 
Sevier proposes the adoption of the North Carolina Constitu- 
tion — Partial elections authorized by North Carolina — Tipton 
elected to the North Carolina Senate — Hostilities with the 
Cherokees — Sevier promptly invades their country — Escapes an 
ambuscade — General Cocke's conference with the Cherokee chief- 
tains — Punishment of Indian murderers — The Cherokees sub- 
dued. 

CHAPTER V. 
Fruitless Overtures 85 

Sevier makes overtures to North Carolina — Appoints General 
Cocke and Judge Campbell commissioners — His letter to Gov- 



•». 



CONTENTS. yffl 

PAGE 

ernor Caswell — Letter of Judge Campbell to the same — Address 
of General Cocke to the North Carolina Legislature — Its ad- 
verse action — General removal of over-mountain officials. 



CHAPTER VI. 

The Chosen Alteenative 99 

Danger of war with the Creeks — Co-operation proposed by 
Georgia, which State appoints Sevier brigadier-general — Letter 
of Major Elholm — Franklin authorizes a call for volunteers — 
Statement of the position of Spain — Feeling of Western settlers 
—Letter from General Clarke to Sevier — From Judge Campbell 
to Governor Caswell — The whole West ready to secede from the 
Union — The alternatives before Sevier — He chooses peaceable 
resistance — His letter to Governor Caswell — Caswell to Sevier — 
Tipton's turbulent conduct — Peace agreement between Sevier 
and Evan Shelby. 

CHAPTER VII. 
Quaker Guns 126 

Prosperity in Franklin — Fresh disturbances incited by Tipton 
— Two parties forming — Shelby requests troops from North 
Carolina — Bledsoe advises the Governor to address the people 
— Letter from Caswell to Shelby — Sevier urged to make for- 
cible resistance — Again attempts a peaceable settlement — Gov- 
ernor Caswell's conciliatory manifesto to the people, which 
brings about a peaceable dissolution of the Franklin govern- 
ment — Sevier, however, the real head of the people — Three 
thousand volunteers answer his summons to aid Georgia — An 
empty treasury — Sevier arms troops to aid Robertson at his own 
cost, and contracts debts in so doing — Sevier elected to the Cin- 
cinnati — Letter to him from Benjamin Franklin — Another at- 
tempt to conciliate North Carolina — Sevier outlawed — Sevier's 
negroes seized by Tipton — A Quaker battle. 



x i v CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Seviee as an Outlaw 158 

The French Broad people — Hostile plans of Joseph Martin — 
Offers office to Sevier's captains — Sevier at Greenville, and con- 
ference with his officers — Advises submission to North Caro- 
lina — With only two hundred and fifty men he marches against 
the Cherokees — Contradictory letters of Joseph Martin — Sevier 
crosses the French Broad ; his route an ovation — Preparations 
■for defense — Sevier to the Governor of Georgia — The murder of 
Kirk's family — Sevier invades the Indian country — Murder of 
the Cherokee king and chieftains by young Kirk — It more 
thoroughly arouses the nation — A hand-to-hand fight of five 
months' duration — The Indians beaten at last, and sue for 
peace. 

CHAPTER IX. 

OvEETHEOW AND TeIUMPH . . . T*** . . .197 

Order for Sevier's arrest issued by Governor Johnston — 
Judge Campbell refuses to issue the warrant — It is done by Judge 
Spencer, of North Carolina — Sevier kidnapped, and conveyed to 
Morganton, North Carolina, to be tried for high treason — Great 
uprising of the western settlers — Sevier's wife plans his rescue 
— Tipton in danger of lynch law — Details of Sevier's rescue — 
Sudden death of Judge Spencer — Great rejoicing over Sevier's 
rescue — Sevier elected to the North Carolina Senate — Claims his 
seat of the Legislature — Fracas between Tipton and Colonel 
Roddy — Eloquent plea of Robertson — Sevier's disabilities re- 
moved, and he given command of the western milWfer— Elected 
as the first representative in Congress from the valley of the 
Mississippi. 

CHAPTER X. 

Teeeitoeial Goveenment 219 

Disordered state of French Broad settlements — Sevier frames 
for them a government — Dissatisfaction with North Carolina — 
She again cedes her western territory to Congress — A territorial 



CONTENTS. xv 

PAGK 

government formed — Sevier appointed brigadier-general in the 
United States army by Washington — A prosperous era dawns 
upon the western settlers — Settlement of Knoxville — Fort 
erected — Treaty of Holston, and meeting of Sevier and Robert- 
son — Sevier builds a cordon of block-houses — Removes with his 
family to the extreme frontier — Knoxville threatened by the 
Cherokees — Heroic preparations for defense — Sevier pursues 
the Indians and defeats them at Etowah. 

CHAPTER XI. 
Pioneer Life in 1796 244 

• Henceforth peace and Nolichucky Jack reign upon the border 

— Remarkable achievements of the western settlers — Farm-life 
among them — No lack of society and social gatherings — Thrill- 
ing tales of female heroism — Happy ruse of Major Cozby in 
defense of his family — A backwoods physician — The "Knox- 
ville Gazette" — Postal service — Frontier traveling — Cowan's 
store — Scenes at Sevier's inauguration as Governor of Ten- 
nessee. 

CHAPTER XII. 

The New Commonwealth 270 

Population in Kentucky as compared with that of southwest 
territory — Meeting of Territorial Legislature — State of Tennes- 
see formed — Sevier elected Governor — His first message — French 
Broad settlers — Sevier re-elected — His peace policy subjected 
to a severe strain — Condition of things as described by Francis 
Baily — Another treaty with the Cherokees which secures per- 
manent peace — The savages ever afterward Sevier's friends — 
Great change in the customs and mode of life on the frontier in 
consequence of Sevier's full ascendency. 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Closing Years 289 

This book not a history of Tennessee — " Happy are the peo- ^^ 

pie whose annals are vacant " — Sevier six times unanimously 



xv i CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

elected Governor and three times Congressman — Fifty-two 
years in public life, and always a leader of men — His peculiar 
ru l e — His great popularity — An illustrative incident — Remarka- 
ble good order of western society — An upright lawyer — Sevier's 
care for the poor — A message of his — Trouble with Andrew 
Jackson — Challenged by Jackson to a duel — His poor opinion 
of Jackson — Sevier's poverty, his simple way of life, his death, 
amid universal mourning in Tennessee and throughout the 
West. 



JOHN SEVIEE 



CHAPTER I. 

THE ACTORS 1^ THIS HISTORY. 

The thirteen United Colonies, which in 1783 achieved 
their independence of Great Britain, were composed of 
as heterogeneous elements as ever came together for 
the forming of a nation. Among them were men of 
every class and nationality, every rank and character, 
and every variety of political and religious opinion. 
Writing of them in 1750, the Rev. Hugh Jones, chap- 
lain to the Honorable Assembly of Virginia, and min- 
ister of Jamestown, said : "If New England be called 
a receptacle of Dissenters, and an Amsterdam of relig- 
ion, Pennsylvania the nursery of Quakers, Maryland 
the retirement of Roman Catholics, North Carolina the 
refuge of Runaways, and South Carolina the delight 
of Buccaneers and Pyrates, Virginia may justly be 
esteemed the happy retreat of true Britons, and true 
Churchmen, for the most part, neither soaring too 
high nor dropping too low ; consequently, it should 



JOHN SEVIER. 



merit the greater esteem and encouragement. " His- 
tory fully confirms the worthy chaplain's characteriza- 
tion of the various colonies, and it records also the 
singular fact that early North Carolina, the "refuge of 
Bunaways," was the first-born daughter of Virginia, 
that "happy retreat of true Britons, and true Church- 



men." 



Though the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas in- 
troduced into the northern colony prior to 1670 several 
ship-loads of respectable English settlers from Barba- 
does, and considerable numbers of Swiss, German, and 
French Protestants came in soon afterward, and some 
small colonies of Scotch Jacobites directly following 
the Stuart rebellion of 1745, a large majority of the 
early settlers of North Carolina were "runaways" 
from Virginia — either criminals, escaping from justice 
in the older colony, or "worthless trash," expelled from 
it because disorderly, and altogether unprofitable in a 
civilized community. These last were the remnants or 
descendants of the" servile class who had in former 
years been imported to work the plantations, and in- 
dentured to the planters to pay their passage across 
the ocean. They were Englishmen, but, for the most 
part, Englishmen who could trace their lineage no 
further than the prisons and slums of London. Their 
indentures expired, they found themselves shut out from 
respectable society by the prejudice entailed by their 
antecedents ; and the consequence was that the meaner- 
spirited among them became outcasts, herding together 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 3 

in the backwoods, and gleaning a wretched subsistence 
from hunting and fishing ; or, hanging npon the out- 
skirts of the plantations, living there in filthy cabins, 
and preying upon the planters' henneries and smoke- 
houses. The better and more enterprising portion — 
those who retained some lingering traces of manhood, 
and had some aspirations for a higher life — emigrated 
at once to North Carolina, where, being joined by such 
of the outcasts as were from time to time expelled by 
the planters, they formed the principal element in 
what soon came to be known in the vernacular of the 
period as the "Tar-heel Commonwealth." From a 
people of such antecedents a model community could 
not be expected.; and we shall see that the tree bore 
its legitimate fruit if we glance for a moment at the 
condition of North Carolina at the time of the Bevolu- 
tion. 

Bancroft asserts that at this period there was neither 
law nor lawyers in North Carolina. This, though sub- 
stantially true, was not so literally ; for lawyers might 
be found there of the order of Andrew Jackson, who 
varied a two-years' reading of Blackstone by intense ap- 
plication to horse-racing and cock-fighting ; and courts 
could be discovered sitting in taverns and log-hovels, 
with judges knowing nothing of law or precedent, and 
coming to their decisions only after close consultation 
with a whisky-bottle. Judge Lynch was the popular 
magistrate, and his decrees were usually those of a crowd 
of hooting and drunken ragamuffins. Until 1703 there 



4 JOHN SEVIER. 

was not a clergyman in the entire colony, and the first 
school was opened ~and printing-press established just 
on the eve of the Eevolution. As a consequence, the 
people were densely ignorant, few among them could 
read or write, and disorder and lawlessness everywhere 
abounded. To a few towns along the sea- coast a mail 
came once a month from Virginia, but the post-rider 
never penetrated into the interior. There the people 
dwelt in thick darkness, having from year's end to 
year's end no more intelligence from the outside world 
than could be gleaned from the few travelers who had 
the hardihood to venture into their wooded solitudes. 
There was next to no town life. New Berne and Wil- 
mington, the principal towns, had each a population of 
less than six hundred. A vast majority of the people 
occupied small, scattered farms — often unfenced clear- 
ings in the midst of wide forests, from which the trees 
had been removed by girdling, and which were culti- 
vated by negro-labor in a most primitive and wasteful 
manner. For the farmer himself, however poor he 
might be, was either too proud or too lazy to work. 
His time he spent in lounging at taverns, drinking 
poor whisky, and indulging in "manly encounters" 
with his neighbors, in which noses were broken, and 
eyes gouged out by the long finger-nails which he al- 
lowed to grow, and pared to a point for that express 
purpose. In aspiration and instinct he was generally 
but a little above the brute ; and yet he did know 
enough to dodge his taxes. Law and religion were to 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 5 

him unmeaning terms, and the chief end of man was 
to live without work, and keep down the expenses of 
government. Owing to a coarse diet and brutish habits, 
these people were poorly developed physically, and they 
regarded with astonishment the uniformly tall and 
athletic over-mountain men who marched over their 
wretched roads to fight the battle they should them- 
selves have fought at King's Mountain. 

But there were a few grains of wheat in this big 
bushel of chaff — a few brave spirits, "studious of their 
rights, bold to avow, and brave to maintain them," 
whose patriotic acts have cast a gleam of sunlight over 
the dismal history of Eevolutionary North Carolina. 
These men were mostly of the foreign element which 
had settled in Orange, Wake, and Mecklenburg Counties. 
In resistance to the tyranny of Tryon, they in May, 
1771, fought the battle of the Alamance, and in May, 
1775, they issued what is known as the "Mecklenburg 
Declaration of Independence." These two acts have 
given North Carolina the name of being the first of the 
colonies to make organized resistance to British oppres- 
sion ; while in truth the credit belongs to but a small 
fraction of the population. A large proportion of the 
people were what I have described ; and many of them 
were Tories in the Revolution ; and Tories not from 
any intelligent idea of the issues at stake, but because 
all of the better class among them were patriots, and 
their instincts led them to oppose the law and order 
element. Impartial history has to record the fact that 



6 JOHN SEVIER. 

at this period the masses of North Carolina were the 
pariahs of American society, and the State itself 
little better than a Botany Bay for the American 
continent. 

The men who planted civilization beyond the Alle- 
ghanies were a different order of people. Though set- 
tled on the soil, and within the jurisdiction of North 
Carolina, they were not North Carolinians. They were 
mostly Virginians, belonging either to the gentry or to 
the sturdy Scotch-Irish and English yeomanry who 
worked their own plantations. Of this latter class was 
the body of immigrants whom James Eobertson led 
over the mountains in 1770 to form the first civilized 
settlement west of the Alleghanies. They were Virgin- 
ians who had only shortly before settled in Wake County, 
and they supposed, when they built their cabins beyond 
the mountains, that they were again upon the soil of the 
Old Dominion ; and this was the impression of all the 
settlers till a number of years afterward. For nearly ten 
years the immigration continued to be of this class, and 
almost altogether from Virginia, for no road had yet 
been opened into Eastern North Carolina, and the 
hunters' trace across the mountains was well-nigh im- 
passable ; whereas, from Virginia there was, following 
the southwestern trend of the valleys, a broad, beaten 
trail which had been the Indian war-path for many 
centuries. When a passable road was finally opened over 
the Alleghanies in 1778, a tide began to set in from 
North Carolina, but it was of the better class — for it goes 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 7 

without saying that a man must be possessed of very 
manly qualities who will deliberately set up his abode 
where he has to take his life in his hand and face death 
daily. Still, the larger number of new-comers continued 
to be from Virginia, and the dominant sentiment was 
always Virginian, alike on the Holston and Watauga 
and on the distant Cumberland. With but one exception 
the trans- Alleghany leaders were all native Virginians — 
Sevier, Donelson, and the two Bledsoes being from the 
ranks of the gentry, Kobertson and Cocke from that 
yeoman class which has given some of its most honored 
names to English history. The one exception was Isaac 
Shelby, who was of Welsh descent, but born and edu- 
cated in Maryland. 

The over-mountain settlers were not fugitives from 
justice, nor needy adventurers seeking in the untrodden 
West a scanty subsistence which had been denied them 
in the Eastern settlements. And they were not merely 
Virginians — they were the culled wheat of the Old Do- 
minion, with all those grand qualities which made the 
name of "Virginian" a badge of honor throughout the 
colonies. Many of them were cultivated men of large 
property, and, though the larger number were poor in 
this world's goods, they all possessed those more stable 
riches which consist" of stout arms and brave hearts, 
unblemished integrity and sterling worth. They were so 
generally educated that in 1776 only two in about two 
hundred were found unable to write their names in good, 
legible English. No body of men ever had clearer ideas 



A 



8 JOHN SEVIER. 

of civil polity or more highly valued the blessings of 
good government. Order-loving and God-fearing, they 
lived together for twelve years without so much as one 
capital crime among them. Shut out by wide forests 
and high mountain-barriers from civilized law, they 
made their own laws, and framed for themselves a 
government which was, with the sole exception of the 
"Fundamental Agreement," entered into by the "free 
planters " of New Haven on June 4, 1639 — the first abso- 
lutely " free and independent " constitution that existed 
in this country. 

The ruling motive of many of these men — as it is 
generally of those who seek new fields of enterprise — was, 
no doubt, the bettering of their worldly condition ; nev- 
ertheless, I think it true that much the larger number 
sought in their Western homes not so much worldly 
wealth as political freedom. They would be beyond the 
reach of the "red-coated minions of tyranny"; they 
dreaded less the war-whoop of the savage than the sting- 
ing insult of the British oppressor. But their leaders 
were far-seeing men, and they had higher aims than a 
mere escape from political tyranny. They sought to 
found in those Western forests a great empire of free- 
men, and they knew they were clearing the way for a 
civilization which should overspread the continent. Said 
Eobertson, while yet the navigation of the Mississippi 
was controlled by Spain, and all the vast region beyond 
that river was fast-locked by her mediaeval bigotry, " We 
are the Advance Guard of Civilization, and our way is 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 9 

across the continent " ; and to Governor Caswell, Seyier 
wrote, when the settlers were but a handful, " However 
inconsiderable the people of this country may appear at 
this day, reason must inform us that the time is not far 
distant when they will become as consequential in 
numbers, if not more so, than most of the Eastern 
States." 

Under these two leaders, John Sevier and James Rob- 
ertson, these people had developed a boundless courage, a 
constant fortitude, a self-devoted patriotism, worthy of 
the most heroic ages. When only a handful of thirty 
men able to wield an axe or handle a rifle, they ventured 
beyond the Alleghanies, and in the mountain-girt valley 
of the Watauga built their cabins and tilled their fields, 
encompassed by twenty thousand armed savages, and 
shut off by a trackless wilderness from all civilized suc- 
cor. There for five years they held their ground, till 
they grew to number about two hundred riflemen, and 
then, under John Sevier, they began a career for which it 
is hard to find a parallel in history. Outnumbered more 
than twenty to one, they held for six years the gateways 
of the Alleghanies against the savage horde which Great 
Britain had enlisted for the destruction of the colonies. 
Time and again they met the savage onset, and time and 
again they beat it back, and carried havoc and death into 
the very heart of the Indian country. And so well did 
they guard the mountain-passes that in all these years 
not one savage band broke through to carry the torch 
and the tomahawk to the homes of Eastern Carolina. 



10 JOHN SEVIER. 

Their own cabins went up in flames, their own firesides 
were drenched in blood, and their mothers and wives 
and children fell before the merciless scalping-knife of 
the Cherokee, yet they never shrank and never wa- 
vered, but stood, from first to last, the immovable rear- 
guard of the Revolution. And not content with this, 
when the day was at the darkest, when saaboard Carolina 
was trodden under foot by the red dragoon, and the 
young republic seemed in the very throes of dissolution, 
they left their own homes well-nigh unprotected, and, 
mustering their best and bravest, rushed over the mount- 
ains to the rescue of their distant countrymen. Making 
an unexampled march of two hundred miles, they hurled 
themselves, only nine hundred and fifty strong, against 
the almost impregnable defenses of King's Mountain, 
and, in one hour, annihilated the left wing of the army 
of Cornwallis ! The result, in logical sequence, was 
Yorktown and American independence. 

Doubtless, the great achievements of the over-mount- 
ain men were largely due to the remarkable qualities of 
John Sevier, who was both their civil and military leader. 
He knew how to achieve great results with slender means, 
and before Napoleon was born had discovered that prin- 
ciple of dynamics by which a small body, driven with im- 
mense force, will deal a heavier blow than a much larger 
one having only the ordinary momentum. He was a 
man of great natural endowments, and of a training that 
peculiarly fitted him to be what he became, the rear- 
guard of the Revolution, and the guardian and defender 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. H 

of the newly planted civilization beyond the Alleghanies. 
No other man of equal talents and equal achievements 
has been so little noticed in American history, and hence 
it is not amiss to devote a few pages to a consideration of 
his life and its influence in founding and developing the 
great empire which has grown up west of the Allegha- 
nies. 

He was not of the ordinary type of backwoodsman. 
He was a gentleman born and bred ; and in his veins 
flowed some of the best blood of the French and English 
nations. He had the force and fire of the Navarre Hu- 
guenots combined with the solid Anglo-Saxon elements 
which have had here, perhaps, their highest expression 
in our venerated Washington. This peculiar blending 
of qualities was seen even in his face, which, while in 
contour and lineament strikingly like that of Washing- 
ton, had the mobility of feature and delicacy of expres- 
sion which belong to the French physiognomy. 

He was born in 1745, in the Shenandoah Valley of 
Virginia, where his father had established himself a few 
years before as a considerable planter. The place was 
then on the confines of civilization, and had few educa- 
tional facilities ; but John was taught the rudiments of 
learning by his mother, and, an Indian war soon break- 
ing out, which forced the family to Fredericksburg, he 
had there the advantage of a good school for several 
years. The family returned to their frontier home when 
John was twelve years old, and then he was sent to an 
advanced school at Staunton, where he remained, an apt 



12 JOHN SEVIER. 

and ready but not very industrious student, until he was 
sixteen years of age. From these few years of tuition he 
acquired as much of an education as was common to 
young gentlemen of the period — enough to enable him in 
after-years to be a ready and effective speaker and writer, 
and to associate on equal terms with the leading men of 
the country. But he was always better acquainted with 
men than with books. Study was irksome to his active 
nature, but the knowledge of men came to him by intui- 
tion. 

Leaving school before he was turned of seventeen, 
young Sevier struck out at once in life for himself by 
marrying a wife, and laying out a township about half a 
dozen miles distant from his father's plantation. This 
town, still bearing the name he gave it, is now the beau- 
tiful village of Newmarket, in the valley of the Shenan- 
doah, about one hundred and fifty miles northwest from 
Eichmond. Here young Sevier erected a log warehouse 
and dwelling, much in the style of a fort, for security 
was the prime requisite in backwoods architecture ; and 
in the warehouse he opened a store for the vending of 
dry-goods and groceries, thereby making his town what 
its name indicated, the market-center of a wide agricult- 
ural region. 

Among the young trader's customers were many of 
the red dwellers of the forest, who came to him for pow- 
der and lead and the long-barreled rifle. Their eyes 
were dazzled by the bright array of "stroud," beads, scar- 
let cloth, and looking-glasses, with which the warehouse 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 13 

was adorned, and they longed to possess the gorgeous 
wonders. To their untutored virtue, a few discharges of 
powder and shot seemed an easier mode of payment than 
a tiresome getting together of peltries, only to be pro- 
cured by long and tedious hunting. So, one dark night, 
they descended upon Newmarket, and attempted to take 
forcible possession of young Sevier's business establish- 
ment. The young gentleman had only a half-dozen men 
with him, but he made such effectual resistance that the 
baffled savages soon scattered into the adjacent forest. 
In the morning, a a trail of blood through the trodden 
undergrowth told the route they had taken ; and, gath- 
ering a score of his friends together, young Sevier fol- 
lowed in pursuit of the marauders. After a toilsome 
march through a pathless forest, he came up with them 
at their wigwam village, and, not stopping to count their 
numbers, made so furious an assault upon them that 
they speedily fled in all directions. Their village was 
reduced to ashes, and a number of their braves were left 
unburied among the cinders. 

Thus did this born soldier, when a youth of scarcely 
eighteen, inaugurate a new system of Indian warfare. 
Thenceforth, wherever his influence went, it was attack 
and not defense : not a skulking behind trees and log- 
fortresses ; but an open forest, a wild halloo, and then 
the onward rush of the hurricane ! It was by such tac- 
tics that Sevier became the victor in thirty-five battles, 
and the most renowned of Indian fighters. 

The Indians naturally objected to a bonfire being 



14 JOHN SEVIER. 

made of one of their villages at the whim of a white 
stripling, and they attempted to enforce upon him their 
law of retaliation. They descended again upon New- 
market in largely augmented numbers ; but this the 
young soldier had anticipated, and he was ready to re- 
ceive them. At the head of about a hundred hardy 
borderers, he put them again to flight, and he followed 
up his success by again invading the Indian country, 
burning their villages, destroying their standing corn, 
and often defeating bodies of five times his own num- 
ber. 

His exploits attracted universal admiration, and in 
time reached the ears of Lord Dunmore, the last royal 
Governor of Virginia. The Governor at once sought out 
the young volunteer who had thus taken off his hands 
the business of chastising the unruly savages. He ex- 
pected to find him an uncouth backwoods youth, of 
rustic ways, and the rude speech of the border ; but, in- 
stead of this, he met a young man of refined aspect, easy 
and prepossessing manners, and an air of natural dignity 
that bespoke the born gentleman. The courtly English- 
man was fascinated with the backwoods 3-outh, and took 
him at once into favor, showering upon him many marks 
of distinction, and, among others, in 1772, a commission 
as captain in the Virginia line — the same corps in w T hich 
Washington then held the rank of colonel. 

Thus, for about half a dozen years, Sevier fought 
the Indians with one hand, and with the other dealt 
out dry-goods and groceries from his warehouse at New- 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 15 

market — doing the last so successfully that, by the time 
he was twenty-six, he had accumulated what, for the 
time and place, was an ample fortune. 

Then, one spring day in 1772, he was invited by oue 
of his fellow-officers — Captain Evan Shelby, subsequently 
General Shelby, of the Revolutionary army — to visit him 
at his cattle -farm of King's Meadows (now Bristol, 
Tennessee), on the southwestern border of Virginia. 
Sevier went, and there he heard of a body of adventur- 
ous pioneers, who, under the lead of James Robertson, 
had, less than two years before, built their cabins at Wa- 
tauga, on the western slope of the Alleghanies. Curious 
to see this handful of settlers, who had thus ventured 
upon the hunting-grounds of twenty thousand warlike 
savages, Sevier rode on to the settlement with Evan 
Shelby and his son Isaac, who afterward became the 
first Governor of Kentucky. The visit brought him in 
contact with Robertson, and that fixed his earthly des- 
tiny. On the instant he decided to cast in his lot with 
that feeble community beyond the mountains. 

Viewed in the light of human prudence, this act of 
Sevier's seems the extreme of folly. With wealth al- 
ready acquired, with devoted friends who were among 
the most influential men in Virginia, and with every 
avenue of distinction wide open to him in the older set- 
tlements, he had within his reach every object that usu- 
ally attracts the ambition of a young man conscious of 
commanding talents. But he deliberately turned his 
back upon this brilliant future, and chose instead a life 



16 JOHN SEVIER. 

remote from cultivated society, and amid an unexplored 
forest, where he was sure to encounter hardship and pri- 
vation, and every peril that waits on civilized man when 
he comes in daily contact with untamed barbarism. It 
would be idle to seek his motive for thus throwing away 
the most coveted objects of ordinary ambition ; but, look- 
ing at him and events through the lens of a century, it is 
easy to see that he had found his appropriate life-work ; 
and that he had been fitted for this work by an excep- 
tional training — such a training as probably came to no 
other cultivated man of his generation. There may 
have been, among the three millions who then peopled 
the Thirteen Colonies, some other man who could have 
done what he did, but no such man came to the sur- 
face of affairs, and hence it is reasonable to conclude 
that he was a "providential man,*' as have been all other 
men who have executed great tasks in pivotal periods of 
human history. 

I have conversed with a number of aged men who 
knew Sevier well in their boyhood, and they all agree in 
describing him as possessed of a personal magnetism that 
was nothing less than wonderful. It was potent with 
both his friends and his enemies ; felt alike by the court- 
ly Dunmore and the untamed savage. He fought the 
Cherokees for more than twenty years, but they never 
came within the sphere of his presence without casting 
aside their grievances and grasping his hand as their 
brother. Once, when he had reduced their nation to the 
very verge of starvation by burning every stalk of corn 



THE ACTORS IN THIS HISTORY. 17 

and ear of grain in their country, their king wrote to the 
Governor of North Carolina, " Send us John Sevier, 
for he is a good man, and he will do us right." Though 
they recognized in him the Nemesis of their nation, they 
conceiyed for him a fanatical admiration, which at last 
deepened into a superstitious belief that he was the spe- 
cial representative of the Invisible. Fighting with him 
was therefore a struggle with Destiny, and this thought 
did more for Western civilization than a thousand Deck- 
ard rifles. 

His magnetism being thus potent with his enemies, 
we can easily conceive how it came to be irresistible with 
his friends — those people whom lie had now settled 
among ; for whom he poured out his wealth like water ; 
whose homes he watched over with sleepless vigilance ; 
and whom he soon led in many a desperate battle, 
crowned always with victory. This magnetism sprang 
from his overflowing kindliness and goodness of heart, 
and this it was, with his commanding abilities, which 
caused him to be recognized from the outset as their 
leader by these people, and made him, during a long life, 
the very soul of the Western commonwealth. 

In a previous book * I have tried to trace the career 
of this remarkable man from his first appearance at Wa- 
tauga to the close of the Revolutionary struggle. In the 
present volume I propose to take up the narrative where 

* " The Rear-Guard of the Revolution," D. Appleton & Co., New 
York. 



18 JOHN SEVIER. 

it is there left off, and to follow, as well as I can, his 
course from the Peace of 1783 to the end of his life ; 
during which period, opposed by North Carolina and 
unaided by the General Government, he built up a great 
commonwealth in the very heart of the Western wilder- 
ness. 



CHAPTER IT. 

THE FIRST SECESSION". 

Between - two such peoples as are described in the 
preceding chapter, there could be no community of 
feeling ; and this lack of sympathy grew into antago- 
nism, when the western settlers witnessed the indiffer- 
ence of North Carolina to their security, her parsimo- 
nious refusal of all appropriations for their benefit, and 
the grasping eagerness with which she enforced upon 
them taxation, and availed herself of the proceeds of 
their unoccupied lands. They had unwittingly settled 
upon her territory, and from the outset had regarded her 
as a step-mother ; and this she proved herself to be by 
exacting all of a mother's rights, and discharging none 
of her duties. To this antagonism is mainly to be attrib- 
uted the first secession which occurred in this country. 

Like all the Thirteen Colonies, North Carolina came 
out of the Revolution not only impoverished but loaded 
down with debt. She owed vast sums to her soldiers, 
and also her proper share of the national obligations, 



20 JOHN SEVIER. 

which now amounted, in round figures, to forty-two mill- 
ion dollars, with an addition of about three millions for 
unpaid interest. A considerable part of this sum was 
due to France, whose government was then asking for 
some adjustment which would in time provide for the 
principal, and at once secure the prompt payment of 
the interest. France had befriended the country in its 
utmost need, and the general conscience demanded that 
something should be done to satisfy its just claims. But 
what could be done with an empty treasury, and the few 
worthless cannon and worn-out muskets, which com- 
prised the total resources of these United States, then 
just embarked on their great career among the nations ? 
Various plans were proposed and expedients suggested, 
and among them was one that the individual States 
should cede their unoccupied lands to the General Gov- 
ernment to create a fund to meet the common liabilities. 
The demand for such lands was active, owing to a large 
influx of immigration ; and it w r as calculated that they 
would speedily yield sufficient avails to expunge the na- 
tional obligations. 

North Carolina at this time held about twenty-nine 
million acres beyond the Alleghanies — all that region 
which is now comprised within the great State of Ten- 
nessee. She had acquired this vast domain without the 
expenditure of a drop of blood or an ounce of treasure, 
for all that portion of the Henderson purchase which was 
south of latitude 36° 30' she had unceremoniously confis- 
cated on the George III theory that none but a sovereign 



THE FIRST SECESSION. 21 

State has any natural right to buy lands of the Indians ; 
and the remainder, which was not in actual occupation 
by the Cherokees, had been bought or wrested from those 
savages by John Sevier and his riflemen, who had fed, 
clothed, and equipped themselves without a dollar of aid 
from North Carolina. As the State contained about one 
ninth of the population of the Union, she was in equity 
bound for a like proportion of the national debt ; and 
now was presented to her legislators the opportunity to 
execute a brilliant financial feat — to discharge her share 
of this vast indebtedness without withdrawing a dime 
from her treasury or imposing a dollar of tax upon her 
tax-loathing people. This her legislators proceeded to 
do by passing an act in June, 1784, which ceded the 
whole of what is now Tennessee to the General Govern- 
ment ; and this they did without so much as consulting 
one of the thirty thousand or more loyal citizens who oc- \^ 
cupied this territory, and had freely expended their blood 
and treasure to secure her independence. Without a 
word, she thrust them ruthlessly from her door, and con- 
signed them to a distant Congress, which could afford 
them neither shelter nor protection. 

For Congress at this time had none of the powers 
that are requisite for efficient government. The Union 
was merely a rope of sand ; the thirteen States were 
thirteen small republics, each one exercising nearly all 
the functions of sovereignty. The cementing principle 
between them was mutual protection ; but they had sepa- 
rate and antagonistic interests that might at any moment 



22 JOHN SEVIER. 

rend them asunder. When threatened by a common 
danger, they had stood shoulder to shoulder ; but, that 
danger passed, there was little to hold them together. 
Nor was there any general sentiment of nationality 
among the people. The traveler through the country 
met a great many Virginians, South Carolinians, and 
New-Englanders, but very few Americans. To Congress 
these little republics had delegated a few powers, just 
enough to entitle them to the name of United States, but 
not enough to enable the General Government to pre- 
serve order at home or command respect abroad. Con- 
gress could contract debts, levy armies, and make agree- 
ments with foreign powers ; but it could not collect an 
impost, or force a State to observe a treaty or to contrib- 
ute a single soldier for the common defense. It had a 
head, a body, and about ninety bodily members, but the 
breath of life was not in ii>. It did not even possess the 
power to protect itself from indignity and insult by its 
own soldiery, as had been shown a year previously, when, 
in its "own hired house" at Philadelphia, it was sur- 
rounded by two hundred and eighty mutinous soldiers, 
clamoring for the pay which was unrighteously withheld 
from them by the thirteen little republics. To this inert 
and powerless body North Carolina bade her over-mount- 
ain citizens look for security and protection, at the very 
time when they were in daily danger from a savage 
enemy, and when she was thrusting upon them a host of 
her own Tories— desperate, lawless characters, thieves, 
house-burners, cut-throats, and woman-violators, whom 



THE FIRST SECESSION. 23 

nothing but the strong arm of omnipotent law could hold 
in civilized subjection. Can it be wondered at that, 
when the tidings crossed the Alleghanies, it aroused a 
universal feeling of indignant consternation ? 

News in those days traveled slowly. The State capi- 
tal was more than live hundred miles from Watauga, and 
the road to it over the mountains was in places so steep 
and rugged that none but a backwoods horseman would 
attempt its passage. Nearly thirty days were usually 
consumed in the journey, and thus it was far into July 
when tidings of the cession act came to the western 
settlers. They had no printing-press, and so all news 
passed among them by word of mouth ; but this flew 
with the rapidity of lightning. From man to man, from 
cabin to cabin, from hamlet to hamlet it sped, and every- 
where it went it kindled a flame of angry excitement. 
With stern faces but anxious hearts they came together 
to deliberate upon the situation. They had, they said, 
asked North Carolina for a Superior Court, to deal with 
the criminals she was driving among them, and for a 
general officer with power to rally their militia for the 
common defense against the daily increasing danger from 
the Creeks and Cherokees ; and, while the ink upon their 
petition was scarcely dry, she had answered it by uncere- 
moniously turning them over to a distant body, com- 
posed of men whose interests were upon the seaboard, 
and who knew no more of their condition and necessities 
than they did of the geography of the moon — nor half so 
much, if they had chanced to listen to Professor John 



24 JOHtf SEVIER. 

Winthrop, of Harvard, who was then the supreme author- 
ity on earthquakes and lunar mountains. Whenever be- 
fore did Watauga so much need a strong government ? 
It was idle to say that the settlers had hitherto governed 
and defended themselves. They had done this : pre- 
served order at home when every man was law-abiding ; 
subdued the Cherokees when small forces would do the 
work ; and fed and equipped their volunteers when men 
like John Sevier had full granaries from which to draw 
their rations. But now a disorderly element was coming 
among them, and this element, driven out by the set- 
tlers, was herding with their enemies, augmenting their 
strength, and increa'sing their hostility. Larger armies 
were now needed for their protection, and Sevier and 
others like him had become so impoverished by frequent 
generosity that they could no longer feed and equip large 
numbers at a moment's warning. And, if they could, 
what power had Sevier to call the men together ? His 
old companions would respond to him promptly ; but 
would the new-comers answer his summons with the 
same alacrity ? Had they for him a similar sentiment of 
fealty ? Would they follow where he led when the foe 
was twenty to one against them ? It was not likely they 
would, for he had never marshaled them to victory ; 
never carried them unscathed through the savage fire, 
nor saved their homes from burning, and their wives and 
children from the midnight tomahawk. He had been 
this people's law as well as leader, and that he would 
continue to be ; but with this large influx of strange and 



THE FIRST SECESSION. 25 

dangerous elements the time had come when even he 
could not rule without all the forms of civilized govern- 
ment. North Carolina had cast them off, but they 
would. form a government of their own, and apply for 
admission to the Union. With these thoughts stirring 
in their minds, the settlers came together at Joneshoro. 

They were sober-minded, judicious men, and they de- 
termined to do nothing in haste, or without the assent of 
the whole body of the people. Consulting now together, 
they decided to recommend the meeting of a convention 
of forty delegates, who should have power to decide upon 
the course of action to be taken in the circumstances. 
These delegates should be elected from the three counties 
into which the district had been divided, and they should 
not meet until thirty days had passed, that they might 
have full time to deliberately consider the situation. 

The delegates were elected, and they assembled in 
convention at Jonesboro, on the 23d of August follow- 
ing. Among them were John Sevier, Charles Eobert- 
son, John Bean, Stockley Donelson, Judge Campbell, 
and others — as true patriots and as worthy men as were 
to be found in the country ; and there is no ques- 
tion that they represented correctly the popular senti- 
ment. They sat with open doors and windows in the log 
court-house, which — according to the builder's specifica- 
tions, still preserved — was of "diamond corners, hewn 
down after being built up, with plank floor, neatly laid, 
and a justice's bench, a lawyer's and clerk's bar, and a 
sheriff's box to sit in," and was the first seat of justice 



26 JOHN SEVIER. 

erected beyond the Alleghanies. This stately structure 
is now crumbled away, only one solitary log remaining, 
which a grand-nephew of Sevier has preserved with 
" pious care " by building it into the wall of a stable! 
" To what base uses may we come at last ! " 

There was scarcely room within the little building for 
the forty delegates ; but the outside audience suffered no 
sort of inconvenience from the cramped condition of 
their quarters. They had " all out-doors," carpeted with 
a luxuriant greensward, and roofed with wide-branching 
oaks and poplars. Fully two thousand had come to- 
gether, mounted on fleet horses, and clad in linsey 
trousers and the universal buckskin hunting-shirt; for 
the country was aflame with excitement, and such 
another gathering had not been seen there since the 
never-to-be-forgotten ten hundred and forty rendez- 
voused at Sycamore Shoals, to be led by Sevier and 
Shelby on the long march to King's Mountain. 

The convention organized with John Sevier as presi- 
dent, and then appointed a committee to consider the 
cession of the Territory to Congress by North Carolina. 
This committee reported that, inasmuch as North Caro- 
lina had thrust Watauga out into the cold, it should at 
once form a State government, and apply for admission 
to the Union. No precedent existed which these men 
could follow, for Vermont had not yet been admitted, but 
had been kept standing, hat in hand, at the door of Con- 
gress since 1776. This was poor encouragement for Wa- 
tauga, but the report was unanimously adopted by the 



THE FIRST SECESSION. 27 

convention, and then read from the court-house steps to 
the outside auditory, not all of whom could hear through 
the open door and windows. It was received with shouts 
that made the woods ring, and therefore may fairly be 
considered the voice of the people. The convention 
then adjourned, after recommending that the people 
should elect fifteen deputies to decide upon a Constitu- 
tion, and organize a government for the new State. 

This election took place on the 14th of December, 
but before it occurred the people over the mountains 
heard of the steps being taken by Watauga for self- 
government. The North Carolina Legislature came to- 
gether in November, and it made haste — at this dis- 
tance of time, it appears an unseemly and undignified 
baste — to repeal the act of the previous session. It also 
gave to the Watauga settlers a Superior Court, having 
jurisdiction over capital offenses ; and it formed the 
militia into a brigade, giving the command to John 
Sevier as brigadier-general. In other words, the horse 
being stolen, these sapient legislators locked the stable- 
door. Eequests long refused they suddenly granted, and 
granted so promptly as to show that they were actuated 
by a reluctance to losing their grip upon the western 
counties, and not by any desire to promote their welfare 
and security. This was apparent to the dullest intel- 
lect, and it was also seen that this action conveyed no 
guarantee of any favorable legislation that might be 
called for by the exigencies of the future. The conces- 
sions came too late. Had they come earlier, they would 



28 JOHN SEVIER. 

have met general acceptance ; but now they only served 
to deepen into contempt the dissatisfaction that had been 
long growing up toward the older counties. With one 
solitary exception, this was probably the feeling at this 
time of every settler upon the Watauga and Holston. 

That one exception was John Sevier. He had been a 
member of the convention that formed the Constitution 
of North Carolina, and had himself caused the insertion 
in its Declaration of Rights of a provision for the crea- 
tion of a separate State beyond the Alleghanies. This 
fact shows that he thus early contemplated the creation 
of an independent commonwealth ; but he now saw that 
the time for it had not yet arrived. The Watauga Dis- 
trict was not yet strong enough in numbers and wealth 
to properly sustain a separate existence. The concessions 
which had been granted by North Carolina would enable 
the settlers to restrain the disorderly among them, and to 
promptly meet their enemies the Cherokees. These were 
the evils of the moment, and, these provided for, Sevier 
thought it wisdom to let things go on in their accus- 
tomed way. He wrote to his friend Colonel Kennedy, 
who had been a member of the convention, under date of 

" 2d January, l^SS. 

" Dear Colonel : I have just received certain infor- 
mation from Colonel Martin that the first thing the As- 
sembly of North Carolina did was to repeal the Cession 
Bill, and to form this part of the country into a separate 
district, by name of Washington District, which I have 



THE FIRST SECESSION". 29 

the honor to command, as General. I conclude this 
step will satisfy the people with the Old State, and 
we shall pursue no further measures as to a new 
State. David Campbell, Esq., is appointed one of 
our judges. " 

Sevier also wrote to prominent citizens of Greene 
County, advising them to take no further action in re- 
spect to a new government, and he used his personal 
influence to that end in his own county of Washington. 
But revolutions, it is said, never go backward. The 
elections were held in the three counties at the appointed 
time for the fifteen deputies who were to form the new 
government. The polls for Washington County were 
opened at Jonesboro, and, it being the most populous 
district, a large throng gathered there to participate 
in the election. Sevier addressed them, stating what 
had been done by the Legislature of North Carolina, and 
advising that no further steps should be taken toward 
erecting a separate government. These men were ac- 
customed to follow his lead almost blindly, and they 
would have done so on this occasion had there not "hap- 
pened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was She- 
ba, the son of Bichri," who said : " We have no part 
with North Carolina. Every man to his tent, 
Israel!" 

This man was one of those restless spirits who seem 
never entirely happy unless they are in the midst of 
strife and discord. Profane, foul-mouthed, turbulent, 



30 JOHN SEVIER. 

and of an irascible, domineering temper, he lacked every 
quality of a gentleman except personal courage, and that 
nameless something which comes down in a man's veins 
from an honorable ancestry. He had the ambition but 
not the ability to lead, and he could not understand why 
men should give to Sevier such unquestioning allegiance. 
He did not know that there is a "divine right " in com- 
manding talents, exercised unselfishly in a people's serv- 
ice. He was greedy for office, and a born demagogue, 
and he had the natural jealousy of Sevier that men of 
low and yet ambitious minds feel for their moral and in- 
tellectual superiors. This feeling was deepened into en- 
mity when he saw himself shut out from positions to 
which he felt entitled by his own abilities, and the promi- 
nence of his family ; for he was of good lineage, and 
bore a name that is honorably mentioned in Southwest- 
ern history. A younger brother, named Jonathan Tipton, 
had been second in command to Sevier at King's Mount- 
ain, and was badly wounded at Boyd's Creek. Two 
others of his family have given names to counties in Ten- 
nessee and Indiana. One of the next generation emi- 
grated to the latter State, and, when but a stripling, was 
an ensign at the battle of Tippecanoe. Of him it is re- 
lated that, in the heat of the action, General Harrison, 
riding by, inquired of the boy, whose features were so 
begrimed with blood and powder that he could not be 
recognized, " Young man, where is your colonel ? " 
"Dead, sir," was the answer. "Your major, then?" 
"Dead, sir." " Your captain ? " " Dead, sir." "Then 



THE FIRST SECESSION. 31 

who commands this regiment?" "I do, sir— Ensign 
Tipton, Fourth* Indiana." 

This black sheep of the flock — Sheba, the son of Bich- 
ri — saw now that the sentiment of the whole commu- 
nity was unmistakably opposed to any further connection 
with North Carolina, and quickly he seized upon the 
opportunity to step into the leadership which seemed 
about to be vacated by Sevier. In an impassioned ha- 
rangue he urged the people to go on with the election. 
They did so ; but they did not throw their beloved Noli- 
chucky Jack overboard. Whether he would or not, they 
were determined that Sevier should go with them. They 
elected him one of the delegates to organize the State 
government ; but, unfortunately, they joined with him 
this same John Tipton and the Rev. Samuel Houston — 
men of totally opposite characters, but destined, by act- 
ing together, to be largely instrumental in overthrowing 
the Watauga commonwealth. 

And now Sevier made the one mistake of his lifetime 
— the one to which may be traced all his subsequent mis- 
fortunes. Seeing that he could not stem the current, he 
allowed himself to be borne along with it. Had he been 
Robertson, he would have quietly stepped aside, and let 
the torrent waste itself in its own wild fury. The force 
of their passion having once spent itself, these people 
would have returned to him and to reason. In the ab- 
sence of any express statement from Sevier*, it is difficult 
to determine why he did not pursue this course, for he 
did not lack the moral courage to stand alone, and he 



32 JOHN SEVIER. 

must have seen that in the changed attitude of North 
Carolina any further action would be actual rebellion. 
An easy way to account for his course would be to say 
that, seeing power about to slip away from him, he 
promptly changed front and went with the multitude in 
order to retain his ascendency over them. But we are 
to judge of character not by one act, but by a whole life, 
and during his entire career Sevier never sought office. 
It was always thrust upon him ; and for nearly ten years 
he persistently set Eobertson — a man much inferior to 
him in ability — above himself in the councils of Watau- 
ga. He was pre-eminently disinterested and unambitious 
— one of the least self-seeking of those great men to 
whom the world owes the establishment of civil and re- 
ligious freedom in America. And, had Sevier been am- 
bitious, he must have known that he was in no danger of 
permanently losing his control over the men of Watauga, 
for his ascendency was founded in the very nature of 
things. From the first they had recognized in him 
the qualities that made him their natural leader. They 
knew that he, and only he, could carry them safely 
through the dangers by which they were environed, and 
that deserting him would be throwing overboard their 
pilot when the ship was riding storm-vexed amid the 
breakers. Moreover, their feeling for him forbade any 
separation. They had for him a personal attachment, 
an almost blind devotion, which has seldom been accord- 
ed to any popular leader. I know of nothing like it in 
American history. Washington and Jackson were greatly 



THE FIRST SECESSION. 33 

beloved, but their popularity waxed and waned, while 
that of Sevier never knew a moment's diminution. For 
forty-three years, alike when he was at the head of a 
great State, and when, a hunted outlaw, fifteen hundred 
armed men sprang spontaneously to his rescue, he was 
the idol of the frontier people. Of all this he must have 
been conscious, and, therefore, we have to seek some 
other motive for his present action than a fear of losing 
his hold on power and popular favor. 

Doubtless Sevier felt contempt for .the ruling ele- 
ment in North Carolina, and disgust at the uniformly 
selfish and now vacillating policy of its Legislature ; 
and he may have thought that a firm stand would bring 
about the separation so much desired by the Watauga 
settlers. This idea may have had weight with him ; but 
still I think the main reason for his course is to be found 
in his strong sympathy with the Watauga people. They 
were to him as the "bone of his bone and the flesh of 
his flesh " ; for twelve years he had shared with them 
storm and sunshine, peril and victory ; and now, when 
he saw them encompassed with dangers from which only 
he could extricate them, and heading recklessly upon a 
dangerous coast, begirt with sunken rocks and treacher- 
ous quicksands, he determined to stand by the ship and 
guide it, if possible, into a secure haven ; and, if that 
were not possible, then to go down in the wreck with 
those he loved and who so loved him. No other sup- 
position seems consistent with his character, or sufficient 
to account for his now going against the convictions of 



34: JOHN SEVIER. 

his cool judgment, as expressed in his letter to Colonel 
Kennedy, and freely announced by him to the people, 
prior to the election of the deputies. 

The deputies came together, organized a State gov- 
ernment, and then adjourned, after calling, for the ensu- 
ing November, another convention to frame and adopt a 
permanent Constitution. A Legislature was then chosen, 
which unanimously elected John Sevier as Governor ; 
and then the wheels of the new State were set in opera- 
tion. John Tipton's intemperate advocacy of the new 
order of things had failed to convince the people that he 
would fitly grace an official position. Consequently, he 
was left out in the cold, and denied even so much as a 
seat in the lower branch of the Legislature. A like fate 
befell one Joseph Martin, another blatant denouncer of 
North Carolina. These apparently insignificant events 
had important consequences, as will appear further on in 
this narrative. 

Sevier had hoped to guide the ship in safety through 
the breakers ; but could mortal hand do this, when she 
was storm-beaten from both east and west, and her own 
crew was in mutiny ? 



CHAPTER III. 

THE ABOETIVE COMMONWEALTH. 

The territory that was termed in legislative docu- 
ments "Washington District" comprised the whole of 
what is now Tennessee, except the country around Nash- 
ville, at which remote outpost of civilization the heroic 
Robertson was at this time holding his ground against a 
horde of savage enemies. But the larger portion of this 
vast region had in 1784 no other inhabitants than wild 
beasts and wilder men, and the white settlements in it 
were restricted to an irregular parallelogram, bordering 
upon the Holston, Watauga, and Nolichueky, and ex- 
tending southwesterly from the Virginia line at King's 
Meadows (now Bristol) to Southwest Point, near the 
confluence of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers. And this 
settled district was but thinly peopled. It contained no 
large towns, and but few villages. Knoxville was not 
yet in existence. Greeneville was little more than a log 
court-house and a log tavern ; and Jonesboro an insig- 
nificant hamlet of some fifty or sixty log cabins, clus- 
tered around the unpretending temple of justice which 
has been mentioned. The people dwelt mostly in isolated 



36 JOHN SEVIER. 

farm-houses, in the midst of wide forests, or in close 
vicinity to log " stations " — block-houses encompassed 
with palisades, in which were a few cabins to house the 
women and children in case of a hostile invasion from 
the Indians. Scattered as they were, it is wonderful 
with what speed the men came together on occasions of 
sudden danger, either to Jonesboro or to the home of Se- 
vier on the Nolichucky, the usual places of rendezvous.^ 
As many as two thousand are known to have assembled 
within twenty-four hours after Sevier's couriers had 
sounded the alarm through the territory — so perfect was 
his system for conveying intelligence, and so fleet were 
the animals bestrode by those tireless riders. The total 
population of the district (exclusive of the Cumberland 
settlements) at this time can not be given with decided 
accuracy, but, estimating it by the force with which 
Sevier soon afterward offered to march to the aid of 
Georgia, it could not have been far from twenty-five 
thousand. A handful, truly, to set up an independent 
existence, when surrounded by hostile savages, and op- 
posed by the great State which then ranked as the third 
in the Union ! 

It was no easy task that Sevier assumed when, on the 
1st of March, 1785, he took oath to well and truly ad- 
minister for three years the office of Governor of the hew 
State of Franklin. He had to evolve order from rank 
disorder, and to erect a stable government with the most 
unstable materials. He had to create a currency when 
even the wealthy had not enough money to pay their 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 37 

taxes, and the North Carolina " promises to pay " were 
not worth one cent on a dollar. He had to provide 
facilities for education, when nothing above a cross-road 
school-house existed in the country. He had to establish 
courts and enforce law, when a lawless element, pouring 
in on the heels of the Eevolution, had flooded every set- 
tlement, and was stalking unchecked upon every high- 
way. And he had to organize and discipline a militia, 
with which to meet the ten thousand Creeks and Chero- 
kees, who, armed and backed by Spain, were preparing 
to swoop down upon the territory. In short, he had to 
enforce law, establish good order, and foil the murderous 
designs of a great European power, when he was himself 
acting contrary to law, and in defiance of the constituted 
authorities of the country. It was a herculean task, but 
in an incredibly short period, and without the loss of a 
single life, Sevier accomplished it ; and, in doing so, he 
displayed a fertility of resource and a wise statesman- 
ship that entitle him to rank very high as an adminis- 
trator ; and we are forced to conclude that, if his course 
had been obstructed by none but outside foes, he would 
have then established a stable government. 

Within sixty days from the coming together of his 
Legislature, Sevier had reduced internal affairs to a 
satisfactory order. He at once established a Superior 
Court, with David Campbell as chief-justice — the same 
who had been named for that office by North Carolina ; 
and he reorganized the militia — now over four thou- 
sand strong — placing over it William Cocke and Daniel 



38 JOHN SEVIER. 

Kennedy as brigadier-generals, he himself being com- 
mander-in-chief. Having thns provided for the enforce- 
ment of law and the defense of the country, Sevier 
directed the attention of his Legislature to subjects of 
less pressing importance. At his suggestion it incorpo- 
rated an institution of higher education, to be presided 
over by Parson Doak, the pioneer preacher. It was 
named Martin Academy, in compliment to the Governor 
of North Carolina, but its title was subsequently changed 
to Washington College. It was the first institution for 
classical learning west of the Alleghanies. He also 
caused acts to be passed levying a tax for the support of 
the government ; "to determine the value of such gold 
and silver coin" as was in circulation ; and "to ascertain 
the salaries " to be allowed the Governor and other State 
officials. These were fixed at the following magnificent 
sums : For the Governor, £200 ; for the Judge of the 
Superior Court, £150 ; for the Secretary of State, £25 
and the fees of his office ; and members of the Legisla- 
ture were to receive four shillings per diem. The appoint- 
ment of all the minor officials was left in the hands of 
the Governor, and he continued in office all those who 
held commissions under North Carolina. Thus the 
passage from the old to the new State did violence to no 
one, and produced no convulsion. There was, in fact, 
no alteration in form ; but there was a total change in 
spirit — an infusion of life into a lifeless machinery, 
which made it at once a conservator of order and a 
terror to evil-doers. 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 39 

But no civil government has existed within historic 
times without a circulating medium, and some standard 
of value by which to regulate exchanges. Among civil- 
ized nations the standard is gold and silver, but the North 
American Indians regarded wampum as money, and 
Pontiac issued letters of credit upon birch-bark, which 
were redeemed by the French in hard currency. But 
gold and silver are sometimes scarce commodities even in 
civilized communities ; and at such times, while they 
have remained the measure of value, other articles have 
of necessity been resorted to as a circulating medium. 
In 1631 it was enacted in Massachusetts that corn at cur- 
rent prices should be received in payment of debts, and 
in 1656 " musket-balls, full bore/' were made a legal ten- 
der at a farthing apiece. As late there as 1680 the town 
of Hingham paid its taxes in milk-pails; in South Caro- 
lina at about the same period the currency was corn, and 
in North Carolina as late as 1738 it was hides, tallow, and 
furs ; while in Maryland and Virginia for more than a 
century the standard of value, as well as the circulating 
medium, was tobacco. In the latter State it was enacted 
that the marshal should be paid, for " laying by the heels," 
five pounds of tobacco; "for duckings," ten pounds; 
"for pillory," ten pounds ; and during a long period the 
market value of a wife — good or bad — ruled in that col- 
ony with wonderful regularity at one hundred and fifty 
pounds. At the time of the Eevolution the currency of 
nearly all the colonies was poorly lithographed "prom- 
ises to pay," printed on dingy paper, by which the 



40 JOHN SEVIER. 

government treasurer did not so much as agree to pay 
the sum that was called for by the "shinplaster." One 
of these, issued by North Carolina, is now before me. It 
reads simply : " N. Carolina Currency. Half a Dollar. 
By authority of Congress at Halifax, April, 1776," and 
in one corner are the figures of a man and a dog, the 
man discharging a leveled musket, with the motto, "Hit 
or miss." The thing certainly "hit" somebody, or it 
would not now be in existence ; but it as certainly made 
a "miss," if it ever attempted to draw its face value 
from the treasury of North Carolina. 

It may be .questioned if Sevier, or any of his legis- 
lators, ever so much as heard of the musket-ball and 
milk-pail currency of Massachusetts, or of the Virginia 
mothers who, perhaps, were dear bargains at one hun- 
dred and fifty pounds of tobacco. These men had prob- 
ably none of these precedents before them ; but, there 
being next to no gold or silver in Franklin, they felt 
the need of some other circulating medium, and they 
adopted one which had intrinsic value, inasmuch as it 
could be either worn or eaten, and was, moreover, within 
the reach of every one who had a strong arm and a good 
rifle. In the law levying a tax for the support of the 
government, they inserted this clause : 

" Be it enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for 
the aforesaid land-tax, and all free polls, to be paid in the 
following manner : Good flax linen, ten hundred, at three 
shillings and sixpence per yard ; nine hundred, at three 
shillings ; eight hundred, two shillings and ninepence ; 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 41 

seven hundred, two shillings and sixpence ; six hundred, 
two shillings ; tow linen, one shilling and ninepence ; 
linsey, three shillings, and woolen and cotton linsey, three 
shillings and sixpence per yard ; good clean beaver-skin, 
six shillings ; cased otter-skins, six shillings ; uncased 
ditto, five shillings ; raccoon and fox skins, one shilling 
and threepence ; woolen cloth, at ten shillings per yard ; 
bacon, w T ell cured, sixpence per pound ; good, clean tal- 
low, sixpence per pound ; good, clean beeswax, one 
shilling per pound ; good distilled rye whisky, at two 
shillings and sixpence per gallon ; good peach or apple 
brandy, at three shillings per gallon ; good country-made 
sugar, at one shilling per pound ; deer-skins, the pattern, 
six shillings ; good, neat, and well-managed tobacco, fit 
to be prized, that may pass inspection, the hundred, fif- 
teen shillings, and so on in proportion for a greater or 
less quantity." 

"And all the salaries and allowances hereby made 
shall be paid by any treasurer, sheriff, or collector of pub- 
lic taxes, to any person entitled to the same, to be paid in 
specific articles as collected, and at the rates allowed by 
the State for the same ; or in current money of the State 
of Franklin. " 

It will be noticed that the closing paragraph provides 
that taxes might be paid in " current money of the State 
of Franklin," which shows that this " coon-skin cur- 
rency " — as it was termed — was merely a temporary ex- 
pedient, designed for the present relief of tax-payers ; 
and that Sevier looked forward to the possession of a 
more civilized circulating medium. This the State soon 
had — thirty thousand dollars, in silver, issued from the 
mint of Charles Kobertson — but, nevertheless, the articles 



42 JOHN" SEVIER. 

enumerated did for a time pass current as money. It was 
at first cpnfidently asserted that this currency could not 
be counterfeited. But in this its advocates were mistaken. 
It was mostly of skins, which passed from hand to hand 
in bundles or bales, from the ends of which the caudal 
appendages were allowed to protrude, to designate the 
species of the animal. Before long, acute financiers af- 
fixed the tail of the otter to the skin of the fox and the 
raccoon, and thus got the better of the receiver in the 
sum of four shillings and ninepence upon each peltry. 

The rapidity with which the above-named acts were 
passed shows not only great unanimity among the legis- 
lators, but the remarkable ascendency which Sevier had 
over the frontier people. His word was literally their 
law, and their absolute devotion to him was what had 
enabled him to conquer his greatly superior savage ene- 
mies. Now, with a strong militia organized and em- 
bodied, he had no fear of the Creeks and Cherokees ; 
but he preferred peace to war, and, when internal affairs 
were once set in order, he lost no time in dispatching 
messengers to the Indian capital, inviting the principal 
chieftains to a conference, to arrange terms on which 
the two races might live together in "perpetual 
amity. " 

In doing this, the new State was about to exercise one 
of the highest functions of sovereignty ; but it was no 
more than had been done by nearly every one of the 
Thirteen Colonies. They had now delegated the treaty- 
making power to Congress, but at that very moment 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 43 

North Carolina was arranging to hold a treaty with these 
same Indians. Sevier had no confidence in the ability of 
its present Governor to secure from them terms that would 
be advantageous to the Watauga settlers, and he very 
naturally thought that what would be lawful for North 
Carolina could hardly be deemed unlawful for Franklin. 
But, lawful or unlawful, some action had to be taken at 
once, for the attitude of the Cherokees threatened imme- 
diate hostilities. It was better to incur the displeasure 
of Congress than to invite the midnight torch and toma- 
hawk to every settler's dwelling. A frank explanation 
might appease the wounded dignity of the Central Gov- 
ernment ; but no apology would restore wasted fields 
and burned farm-houses, or gather up the blood that 
might be spilled in a conflict with the savages. It was 
these considerations that now induced Sevier to make 
overtures of peace to the Cherokees. 

The Creeks were in secret league with Spain for the 
extermination of the settlers, and their allies, the Chero- 
kees, had been in a chronic state of dissatisfaction since 
1782, in consequence of the locating of the whites upon 
lands south of the French Broad and Holston Eivers, 
which had never been formally ceded to North Carolina. 
Their king, Old Tassel, the wary but wise and pacific 
successor to Oconostota, had addressed frequent protests 
to the Governor of North Carolina against these en- 
croachments; but they had been practically unheeded, 
though his Excellency, as far back as February 11, 1782, 
had written to Sevier : " Draw forth a body of your 



44 JOHN SEVIER. 

militia on horseback, pull down their cabins, and drive 
them off, laying aside every consideration of their en- 
treaties to the contrary." Sevier had not laid aside these 
considerations, for some of the encroaching settlers were 
his old companions in arms, who had fought by his side 
at King's Mountain, and, time and again, protected the 
settlements from the midnight raids of these same sav- 
ages. Though an officer of North Carolina, he had given 
little heed to the Governor's arbitrary command. He 
had not driven the people off, but had dissuaded them 
from any further encroachments, and given assurance to 
Old Tassel that none would be permitted. But this, 
though the settlers were some miles distant from the 
Indian hunting-grounds, did not satisfy the Cherokees, 
who rightly regarded every forward movement of the 
whites as merely another step toward their own final ex- 
pulsion from the country. 

This dissatisfaction among the Indians had been but 
recently inflamed to the pitch of hostile action by the 
unfortunate killing of Untoola, of Citico, one of their 
principal warriors, by Major James Hubbard, of the Wa- 
tauga riflemen. The evidence was that the killing was 
entirely justifiable, being done strictly in self-defense ; 
but Hubbard was known among the Cherokees to be the 
implacable enemy of their race and nation. His whole 
family had been remorselessly butchered by the Shawnees 
in Virginia, and, ever since, the one business of his life 
had been the slaughter of Indians. Though but a young 
man, he was reputed to have killed more Cherokees than 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 45 

any two men upon the border ; and, inflamed by a spirit 
of vengeance, he did not always wait for what would be 
deemed justifiable provocation. Knowing this, the Cher- 
okees had no difficulty in believing that he was the ag- 
gressor in the rencounter which had resulted in the death 
of Untoola. Eevenge — blood for blood — was with them 
a religious principle, and the whole nation now cried out 
for vengeance upon the slayer. The infuriated braves 
were only restrained from going at once upon the war- 
path by the promise of Old Tassel to lay the matter be- 
fore the Governor, and by his assurance that his Excel- 
lency would now not only listen to their complaints, but 
would speedily take steps to redress this and their other 
grievances. 

In this the Cherokee king was not mistaken. With- 
out so much as asking for the evidence against Hubbard, 
Governor Martin gave orders for his immediate arrest 
and conveyance over the mountains ; and he also, to ap- 
pease, it would seem, the wrath of this Indian chief, is- 
sued a proclamation commanding the instant removal 
of all settlers upon the lands south of the French Broad 
and Holston. At the same time he wrote to Old Tassel, 
stigmatizing these settlers as " bad people," willing to 
disobey " any law for the sake of ill -gain and profit," and 
" caring not what mischief they do between the white 
and red people if they can enrich, themselves" ; and he 
closed by entreating the wily old savage to be " patient, 
and not listen to any bad talks which may disturb our 
peace and good- will : for you may be certain your elder 

6 



40 JOHN SEVIER. 

brother of North Carolina will do everything in his power 
to give your minds satisfaction." 

This language Governor Alexander Martin addressed 
to untutored savages, who would be sure to mistake kind 
words for weakness ; and his proclamation he directed 
against several thousand law-abiding citizens, who had 
settled on those lands in reliance upon a special promise 
of protection made to them by an ordinance of the North 
Carolina Legislature in May, 1783. Moreover, the men 
whom the Governor branded as lawless and "bad peo- 
ple " were among the best in the territory — men whose 
daily lives exhibited some of the noblest traits of Ameri- 
can character, patient industry, indomitable energy, man- 
ly resolution, and heroic courage. 

The Governor's language was regarded as an out- 
rageous insult, his proclamation as a flagrant injustice ; 
and both were deplored because calculated to render the 
Cherokees more unreasonable in their demands. The 
Indians were thus assured of the sympathy of their 
" elder brother of North Carolina," and this might lead 
them to reject any terms that should provide for the 
peaceable retention of their homes by the intruding set- 
tlers. This Sevier well knew ; but he also knew that his 
name was a terror among the Cherokees, and he counted 
upon the dread the old king would have of a collision 
with him, to counteract the effect of the Governor's 
proclamation. In any event, he should protect the 
French Broad settlers, and not permit their removal. 

The council was held on Dumplin Creek, near the 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 47 

north bank of the French Broad River, and about ten 
miles east of the present city of Knoxyille ; and it began 
on the 31st of May, 1785, only a few days after the 
adjournment of the Franklin Legislature. It lasted 
three days, and was attended by a numerous body of 
chiefs and warriors. When all had assembled, Sevier 
addressed them. He did not tell them that his old 
comrades had wrongfully intruded upon their lands, nor 
did he make any apology or offer any reparation for the 
killing of Untoola. But he assured the Indians that he 
desired to live in peace with them, and, says the old his- 
torian, "in a speech well calculated to produce the end 
in view, he deplored the sufferings of the white people ; 
the blood which the Indians had spilled on the road 
leading to Kentucky ; lamented the uncivilized state 
of the Indians ; and, to prevent all future animosities, 
he suggested the propriety of fixing the bounds beyond 
which those settlements should not be extended which 
had been imprudently made on the south side of the 
French Broad and Holston, under the connivance of 
North Carolina, and could not now be broken up ; and 
he pledged the faith of the State of Franklin that, if 
these bounds should be agreed upon and made known, 
the citizens of his State should be effectually restrained 
from all encroachments beyond them."* 

The fearless and manly attitude of Sevier had the 
desired effect upon the Indians. The Cherokees ac- 

* Haywood. 



48 JOHN SEVIER. 

cepted the situation, and not only ignored the killing 
of Untoola, and waived the removal of the settlers, but 
made a cession of a much larger territory than had been 
already occupied, establishing as the boundary between 
themselves and the whites the high ridge which divides 
the waters of the Little Tennessee from those of Little 
Eiver. For these lands Sevier promised compensation in 
general terms, dependent, however, upon the good be- 
havior of the Cherokees, and their faithful observance 
of the treaty. Thus, by a few spoken words, and the 
magnetism of his presence, did he reduce the refractory 
Cherokees to reason, and undo the evil effects of the ill- 
advised " talks "of the North Carolina Governor. But 
the wily Old Tassel absented himself from the confer- 
ence, and was not therefore a party to the treaty. He 
knew from Governor Martin of the rupture between 
North Carolina and Franklin, and he sought, by staying 
away, to keep in a position to repudiate the treaty in 
case circumstances should render such a course advisable 
or profitable to the Cherokees. 

As Sevier was about setting out to negotiate this 
treaty, an angry blast came from over the mountains. 
It was wind, empty and loud-sounding, but in it was 
an articulate voice, which gave warning of " breakers 
ahead" on the course the new State was pursuing. 
Before the adjournment of the Legislature, Sevier had 
dispatched an official letter to the Governor of North 
Carolina, apprising him of the secession of Franklin ; 
and now came in reply a manifesto from that function- 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 49 

ary, addressed "To the Inhabitants of the Counties of 
Washington, Sullivan, and Greene." The document is 
too long to be here quoted, but a few extracts will give 
its essential features. It began by saying, " Whereas, I 
have received letters from Brigadier-General Sevier, 
under the style and character of Governor ; and from 
Messrs. Landon Carter and William Gage, as Speakers 
of the Senate and House of Commons of the State of 
Franklin, informing me that they, with you, the in- 
habitants of part of the territory lately ceded to Con- 
gress, had declared themselves independent of the State 
of North Carolina, and no longer consider themselves 
under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the same, 
stating their reasons for their separation and revolt, 
among which, it is alleged, that the western country was 
ceded to Congress without their consent, by an act of 
the Legislature, and the same was repealed in the like 
manner." The Governor then went on through four 
closely printed octavo pages to arraign the western lead- 
ers for high treason, and to warn the people of the dire- 
ful consequences that would attend a defiance of the 
Tarboro Legislators. "The State of North Carolina," 
he said, "could not suffer treaties to be held with the 
Indians and other business transacted in a country where 
her authority and government were rejected and set at 
naught. . . . Far less causes had deluged states and king- 
doms with blood. . . . There is a national pride in all 
kingdoms and states that inspires every subject with a 
degree of importance — the grand cement and support of 



50 JOHN SEVIER. 

every government — which must not be insulted." His 
people had been grossly insulted, the honor of his State 
"particularly wounded," and "Congress could not coun- 
tenance such a separation, wherein the State of North 
Carolina hath not given her full consent ; and, if an im- 
plied and conditional one hath been given, the same 
hath been rescinded by a full Legislature. Of her rea- 
sons for so doing, they [who ?] consider themselves the 
only competent judges." 

After much of this high-sounding verbiage, the Gov- 
ernor resorted to threats, as follows : " I know," he said, 
"with reluctance the State will be driven to arms; it 
will be the last alternative to imbrue her hands in the 
blood of her citizens ; but, if no other ways and means 
are found to save her honor, and reclaim her head- 
strong, refractory citizens, but this sad expedient, her re- 
sources are not yet so exhausted, or her spirits damped, 
but she may take satisfaction for this great injury re- 
ceived, regain her government over the revolted terri- 
tory, or render it not worth possessing." The italics 
are the Governor's own. 

These threats were ill-advised, and the whole docu- 
ment was poorly calculated to win back the western 
people to a government which had never afforded them 
either aid or protection. However, the paper did contain 
a single paragraph which, had their minds not been in- 
flamed by passion, might have led the western settlers 
to more fully reflect upon the consequences of their 
action. This paragraph was as follows: "By such 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 51 

rash and irregular conduct a precedent is formed for 
every district, and even every county of the State, to 
claim the right of separation and independency for 
any supposed grievance of the inhabitants, as caprice, 
pride, and ambition shall dictate, at pleasure, thereby 
exhibiting to the world a melancholy instance of a 
feeble or pusillanimous government, that is either un- 
able, or dares not restrain the lawless designs of its 
citizens." 

Copies of this manifesto were freely circulated in 
manuscript among the people ; but it appears to have 
made no general impression. At the moment every 
one west of the mountains was too much infatuated 
with a new-born sense of freedom from a hated con- 
nection, or too much engrossed with thoughts of the 
pressing danger from the Creeks and Cherokees, to 
give heed to what seemed idle talk from North Caro- 
lina. Sevier paid no attention to the document so 
long as Martin continued Governor ; but in a few 
weeks Martin was succeeded in office by Eichard Cas- 
well, a far abler man, and to him Sevier addressed a 
letter, controverting the positions of his predecessor. 
In it he denied that he and his people were in revolt 
from North Carolina. That State, he said, had by the 
act of cession invited the western settlers to the course 
they had pursued ; and they had taken it from the 
necessity to prevent anarchy, and provide against their 
enemies the Cherokees ; and they fully believed that 
the acts of North Carolina tolerated the separation. 



52 JOHN SEVIER. 

And he added: "The menaces made use of in the 
manifesto will by no means intimidate us. We mean 
to pursue our necessary measures, and with the fullest 
confidence believe that your Legislature, when truly in- 
formed of our ciyil proceedings, will find no cause for 
resenting anything we haye done. The repeal of the 
cession act we can not take notice of, as we had de- 
clared our separation before the repeal. Therefore, we 
are bound to support it with that manly firmness that 
becomes freemen." 

Throughout the letter Sevier is dignified, but con- 
ciliatory. By brief, pointed sentences he overthrows 
the wordy ranting of Martin — that is, where it can be 
overthrown — but he takes no notice whatever of the 
latter's allusion to the danger of secession. This he 
did not attempt to answer ; probably, because he felt 
that it could not be answered. That he appreciated 
the evil that might result from the precedent he was 
trying to establish, is evident from a reference he made 
to it two years later — in a letter he wrote to the Gov- 
ernor of Georgia, wherein he styles secession an ulcer 
which, if allowed to spread, may at last infect the whole 
body politic. 

It was fortunate for the Watauga settlers, and fortu- 
nate also for the country, that Richard Caswell was now 
Governor of North Carolina. He was one of those rare 
men — not over-plentiful at any period, and least of all 
when society has been but recently upheaved by the 
strong passions of a revolution — who can look on both 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 53 

sides of a question, and, while not forgetting his own 
rights and obligations, can fully appreciate the circum- 
stances and necessities of an adversary. Had Martin 
continued in office, and attempted to enforce his policy 
of coercion, the most disastrous consequences would 
probably have followed. Norfch Carolina outnumbered 
the settlers more than twenty to one, but she had no 
military leaders, and her wretched " sand-hillers " were 
no match for the over-mountain men, who would have 
fought behind their mountain fastnesses, and under the 
lead of Sevier, who was incarnate victory. The proba- 
bilities are that Watauga would have been successful ; 
and her revolt, occurring so early, while the Central 
Government was as yet but a rope of sand, and the 
various States were drawn apart by conflicting inter- 
ests, other revolts would doubtless have followed. Thus, 
what Sevisr termed the " ulcer" of secession would have 
spread, till the Union was rent into fragments, and 
there had been to-day a dozen little republics instead 
of our one vast and united nation. So, on what seems 
to us insignificant events hang often great results, which 
are felt far along the course of time, and over the whole 
of a continent. In reply to Sevier's letter, Governor 
Caswell wrote as follows : 

" Kingston, N. C, 11th June, 1785. 

" Sir : Your favor of the 14th of last month I had 
the honor to receive by Colonel Avery. In this, sir, you 
have stated the different charges mentioned in Governor 



54 JOHN SEVIER. 

Martin's manifesto, and answered them by giving what I 
understand to be the sense of the people and your own 
sentiments with respect to each charge, as well as 
the reasons which governed in the measures he com- 
plained of. 

"I have not seen Governor Martin's manifesto, nor 
have I derived so full and explicit information from any 
quarter as this you have been pleased to give me. As 
there was not an Assembly, owing to the members not 
attending at Governor Martin's request, the sense of the 
Legislature on this business, of course, could not be had ; 
and as you give me assurances of the peaceable dispo- 
sition of the people, and their wish to conduct themselves 
in the manner you mention, and also to send persons to 
adjust, consider, and conciliate matters (I suppose) to 
the next Assembly, for the present things must rest as 
they are with respect to the subject-matter of your letter, 
which shall be laid before the next Assembly. In the 
mean time, let me entreat you not, by any means, to con- 
sider this as giving countenance, by the Executive of the 
State, to any measures lately pursued by the people to 
the westward of the mountains." 

Being thus left unmolested by North Carolina, Sevier 
had time to attend to the consolidation of the new gov- 
ernment. Law was at once effectually administered, a 
few notorious criminals were properly punished, the dis- 
orderly element was awed into good behavior, and the 
militia was thoroughly drilled, to be in readiness at any 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 55 

moment to repel an attack from the treacherous Creeks 
and Cherokees. Under Sevier's mild but efficient rule 
everything soon went well ; and now for several months 
it seemed that Watauga had entered upon an unbroken 
career of peace and prosperity. So successful was Se- 
vier's administration of affairs that it was not long be- 
fore the Scotch Presbyterians of the Backwater settle- 
ments, some of whom had fought by his side at King's 
Mountain, took steps, under the lead of Arthur Camp- 
bell, to sever their connection with Virginia, and en- 
roll themselves under the new Franklin government. 
Strange as it may seem, the first ripple that disturbed 
this placid state of things was raised by the distant Cen- 
tral Government, which now was in session at Philadel- 
phia. It had thus far turned a deaf ear to the applica- 
tion of Watauga for admission to the Union ; and it was 
now to exercise its treaty-making power in a manner 
both embarrassing and dangerous to the nascent com- 
monwealth. 

On the 19th of September, 1785, not much more 
than half a year after the launching of the State of 
Franklin by the over-mountain Legislature, one Joseph 
Martin, Indian agent for the State of North Carolina, 
held a conference with the principal Cherokee chief- 
tains, in the grand council-house of the tribe at Echota. 
Squatted on a buffalo -robe by his side was the Old 
Tassel, while around him, on the ground, or on the 
cane benches which encircled the dingy but spacious in- 
terior, were gathered the " head-men " of the Ottari and 



56 JOHN SEVIER. 

Erati Cherokees. These warriors had come together 
from far and near to hold what in Indian parlance is 
styled a " talk" with this " head-man " of North Caro- 
lina ; and this talk, reduced to writing, and dispatched 
over the mountains, was first to stir the stagnant atmos- 
phere of North Carolina, and then to arouse a breeze in 
the great council-house of the Union at Philadelphia — 
a breeze which should bode no good to the government 
of Sevier, and to the " bad people" who now, by right of 
treaty, were peacefully gathering their crops on the south 
side of the French Broad and Holston. 

This Martin, though an official of North Carolina, 
had been one of the earliest and most active promoters 
of the new State ; but somehow, when it came to be 
organized, he had, much to his chagrin, found himself, 
like Tipton, left without any official position whatever. 
This, had he been greedy of emoluments, could not 
have been a very sore affliction, but he probably cared 
more for position than profit, for the reason that in 
the backwoods the possession of money is not a sure 
passport to influence and consideration. Luckily, how- 
ever, he had not been so unwise as to cast away an old 
coat before obtaining a new one ; and now he resumed 
his former office, and left the new State to go on its own 
way to destruction. But in these early days of Septem- 
ber there arose an occasion when, to preserve what little 
of official position he had, it seemed to Martin necessary 
that he should help the new government on to its pre- 
destined consummation. This might involve the be- 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 57 

trayal of bis friends, but that were better than the loss of 
office under North Carolina. 

Martin had passed the most of the summer among 
the Cherokees, listening to the grumblings of Old Tassel 
and the smothered curses of the warriors upon the fast- 
incoming settlers, who were rapidly filling up the lands 
recently ceded to Franklin ; but he had uttered not one 
word of sympathy, encouragement, or remonstrance. The 
affair he deemed none of his ; he was an officer of North 
Carolina ; and, as yet, he had no definite intimation of 
how the recent secession was regarded by its new admin- 
istration. But early in September there came to Echota 
the same Colonel Avery who had borne Sevier's letter to 
Governor Caswell, and he brought to Martin a missive 
from his Excellency, which he had carried in his pocket 
ever since the date of the Governor's letter to Sevier. 
The Governor had heard of Martin's activity in the 
formation of the new State, and he now asked the Indian 
agent the pertinent question, if he intended to serve two 
masters — or rather, in backwoods phrase, if he was at- 
tempting to ride two horses at once, barebacked, after 
the Indian fashion. 

The Governor's question alarmed Martin, and he 
deemed it necessary to do something at once that should 
assure North Carolina of his zealous allegiance. So, sud- 
denly, he became sympathetic with Old Tassel, and told 
him that the existence of Franklin had not yet been 
recognized by North Carolina ; that, consequently, the 

treaty which Sevier had lately made with the Cherokees 

1 



58 JOHN SEVIER. 

was no better than waste paper ; and that, if Old Tas- 
sel should petition the Governor of North Carolina, his 
Excellency would doubtless order the removal of the 
" bad people " from the lands south of the French Broad 
and the Holston. This it was which had led the Chero- 
kee king to call together the "head-men" of the whole 
nation, who now were assembled in their great council- 
house, eagerly listening to this white man, who was tell- 
ing them by what treacherous diplomacy they might 
evade the sacred obligations of a treaty, and involve in 
ruin several thousands of his own race and kindred. 
The "talk" which resulted from this council, and was 
dispatched from Old Tassel to Governor Caswell, was 
as follows : 

" Brother: I am now going to speak to you ; I hope 
you will hear me. I am an old man, and almost thrown 
away by my elder brother. The ground I stand on is very 
slippery, though I still hope my elder brother will hear 
me, and take pity on me, as we were all made by the 
same Great Being above ; we are all children of the same 
parent. I therefore hope my elder brother will hear me. 

"You have often promised me, in talks that you sent 
me, that you would do me justice, and that all disorderly 
people should be moved off our lands ; but the longer we 
want to see it done, the farther it seems off. Your 
people have built houses in sight of our towns. We 
don't want to quarrel with you, our elder brother. I 
therefore beg that you, our elder brother, will have your 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 59 

disorderly people taken off our lands immediately, as 
their being on our grounds causes great uneasiness. "We 
are very uneasy on account of a report that is among 
the white people, that call themselves a new people, that 
live on French Broad and Nolichucky. They say they 
have treated with us for all the lands on Little Eiver. I 
now send this to let my elder brother know how it is. 
Some of them gathered on French Broad, and sent for us 
to come and treat with them ; but, as I was told there 
was a treaty to be held with us by orders of the great 
men of the Thirteen States, we did not go to meet them ; 
but some of our young men went to see what they 
wanted. They first wanted the land on Little Eiver. 
Our young men told them that all their head-men were 
at home ; that they had no authority to treat about 
lands. They then asked liberty for those that were then 
living on the lands to remain there, till the head-men of 
their nation were consulted on it, which our young men 
agreed to. Since then we are told that they claim all the 
lands on the waters of Little River, and have appointed 
men among themselves to settle their disputes on our 
lands, calling it their ground. But we hope you, our 
elder brother, will not agree to it, but will have them 
moved off. I also beg that you will send letters to the 
Great Council of America, and let them know how it is ; 
that, if you have no power to move them off, they have, 
and I hope they will do it." 

Of his own personal knowledge, Martin knew that 



60 JOHN SEVIER. 

this "talk" was a tissue of duplicity and downright 
falsehood, calculated and intended to deceive, and de- 
signed to induce such action on the part of Congress as 
would render homeless, or expose to the tomahawk and 
scalping-knife, some thousands of men, women, and chil- 
dren of his own nation and kindred ; and yet he not 
only permitted this false paper to go forward to the Gov- 
ernor of North Carolina, without contradiction or re- 
monstrance, but himself sent it to his Excellency ; and 
there is good circumstantial evidence that he inspired 
its lies, and intrigued with Governor Caswell to get him- 
self appointed by Congress upon the treaty commission, 
in order the more effectually to accomplish his end, 
which was the infliction of a vital blow upon the govern- 
ment of Sevier, a man with whom he had served, and 
for whom he then and afterward professed the warm- 
est friendship. With the "talk" Martin dispatched to 
Governor Caswell the following epistle : . 

" Chota, 19th September, 1785. 

" Dear Sir : Your Excellency's favor of the 17th 
June, by Mr. Avery, never came to hand until the 10th 
inst. I find myself under some concern, in reading that 
part wherein T am considered a member of the new 
State. I beg leave to assure your Excellency that I have 
no part with them, but consider myself under your im- 
mediate direction, as agent for the State of North Caro- 
lina, until the Assembly shall direct otherwise. I am 
now on the duties of that office, and have had more 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 61 

trouble with the Indians, in the course of the summer, 
than I ever had, owing to the rapid encroachments of the 
people from the new State, together with the ' talks' 
from the Spaniards and the western Indians." 

Whatever his predecessor had done, Governor Cas- 
well was not disposed to usurp any of the prerogatives 
of the General Government. Accordingly, he submitted 
the "talk" of Old Tassel to Congress, recommending that 
a treaty should be at once made with the Cherokees, and 
naming Joseph Martin as peculiarly fitted, by his famil- 
iarity with those Indians, and his knowledge of the ques- 
tions in dispute between them and the settlers, to act as 
one of the commissioners. Congress had for some time 
contemplated some action in reference to affairs with the 
Southern Indians, and it now promptly appointed Joseph 
Martin, of North Carolina ; Andrew Pickens, of South 
Carolina ; and Lachlan Mcintosh and Benjamin Haw- 
kins, of Georgia, commissioners to conclude a treaty with 
the Cherokees. The three last named were men of the 
highest character, and Hawkins was familiar with the 
Creeks and more southern Indians ; but none of the 
four, except Martin, had any special acquaintance with 
the Cherokees, or any knowledge of their relations to the 
Watauga settlers. Consequently, the others deferred to 
Martin's views, and the result was what is known as the 
treaty of Hopewell, by which all recent treaties were 
ignored, and the Indian lines were extended so as to 
cover a large extent of territory which had been ceded 



62 JOHN SEVIER. 

by the Cherokees to Henderson in 1776, and even por- 
tions of country which that tribe never claimed, and 
which had been conveyed to the whites by the Six Na- 
tions at Fort Stanwix in 1768. A considerable part of 
the lands recently granted by North Carolina, in pay- 
ment of the arrears due to her soldiers, was declared to 
be within Cherokee territory, and it was agreed that they 
should not be settled upon by the whites. Intending 
settlers should be warned off, and, if they persisted in 
settling, "for any such obstinate intrusion, they should 
be liable to be punished by the Indians as they might 
think proper." Moreover, the treaty clothed the Chero- 
kees with judicial and executive powers of a most ex- 
traordinary character. They might arrest any persons 
they believed to be guilty of a capital offense, and 
"punish them in the presence of some of the Cherokees, 
in the same manner as they would be punished for like 
offenses committed on citizens of the United States." 
The treaty, in short, placed the Cherokees upon a par 
with the most civilized nations, and made Congress the 
unwitting instrument of the most flagrant injustice to its 
own law-abiding citizens. 

By this extravagant and needless concession to the 
Cherokees, some thousands of the loyal supporters of the 
Government were denied both State and national protec- 
tion, and left exposed to the savage mercy of a nation of 
cut-throats, who, despite repeated cessions, could now 
claim this territory as their hunting-ground. The alter- 
natives before the settlers south of the Holston and 



THE ABORTIVE COMMONWEALTH. 63 

French Broad were now either the abandonment of their 
homes or a conflict for their possession with the whole 
Cherokee nation. The last they could not meet without 
the aid of Sevier, and this he could not give without ar- 
raying against himself not only North Carolina and the 
Cherokees, but the General Government of the country. 
It was probable that the settlers would not abandon their 
homes ; they were men who had never yet turned their 
backs upon an Indian ; and it was certain that Sevier 
would not stand by and see them slaughtered by the sav- 
ages. What human power, then, could hinder a collision 
between him and the United States, and his consequent 
defeat, outlawry, and final ruin ? This was, no doubt, 
the thought of Martin, and with this thought he must 
have put his hand to the treaty of Hopewell. 

It was in these circumstances — opposed by established 
law, betrayed by pretended friends, and on every side sur- 
rounded by apparently insurmountable difficulties — that 
Sevier met the convention which, in November, 1785, 
assembled in the little log court-house at Greeneville to 
form a permanent Constitution for the State of Franklin. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 

To this convention came John Tipton — Sheba, the 
son of Bicliri — who had somehow procured himself elect- 
ed a deputy, and also the Rev. Samuel Houston, pro- 
genitor, or near kinsman, to that other Sam Houston, 
who did many brave things, but none braver than riding 
by the side of Lincoln when he deemed that good man's 
life in danger on the eve of his inauguration. In the 
pocket of the reverend gentleman was a ready-made con- 
stitution, the handiwork of himself and his friends dur- 
ing the long months which had elapsed since the session 
of the organizing convention. This Constitution, when 
Sevier had taken the chair, and a blessing had been asked 
upon the deliberations of the delegates, the worthy clergy- 
man proceeded to unroll, asking permission that it might 
be. read and submitted to the vote of the convention. 
Permission was readily accorded, for Houston was a man 
much esteemed — a cast-iron man, of rigid principles and 
fixed opinions, run in the Scotch Presbyterian mold, but 
nevertheless holding in solution that kind of salt which 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 65 

keeps this world " sweet and wholesome." How much 
time was consumed in the reading is not stated ; but it 
must have been the better part of a day, for the document 
was longer than the "Westminster Catechism" and the 
" Thirty-nine Articles " put together, and it was of much 
the same character. It proposed to run the new govern- 
ment on theological principles ; and, to secure the purity 
of its legislative and administrative branches, it provided 
that no person should be eligible as a representative, or 
competent to hold any civil office under the new State, 
who was of " immoral character, or guilty of such flagrant 
enormities as drunkenness, gaming, profane swearing, 
lewdness, Sabbath-breaking, and such like ; or who will, 
either in word or writing, deny any of the following 
propositions, viz. : 

" 1. That there is one living and true God, the Crea- 
tor and Governor of the universe. 

"2. That there is a future state of rewards and pun- 
ishments. 

"3. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testa- 
ments are given by Divine inspiration. 

" 4. That there are three divine persons in the God- 
head, co-equal and co-essential." 

To other sections of a like orthodox character were 
added many admirable provisions for the promotion of 
education, the preservation of good order, and the strict 
enforcement of law and impartial administration of jus- 
tice ; but the whole was quite as well adapted to the in- 
habitants of the planet Saturn as to the heterogeneous 



66 JOHN SEVIER. 

population which then tenanted the trans- Alleghany re- 
gion. 

An animated discussion followed the reading of this 
document, in which its advocates exhibited an acrimony 
altogether unorthodox. They speedily developed the 
fact that here, in these far-western backwoods, near the 
close of the eighteenth century, there existed as much 
intolerant bigotry and ill-directed religious zeal as was to 
be found in New England at the much earlier period 
(1674) when the zealots of that region made themselves 
so obnoxious to their neighbors that the stolid Dutchmen 
of New York passed a law forbidding all intercourse with 
the Yankees. The large minority which voted for this 
Utopian Constitution showed that this intolerant spirit 
prevailed among a considerable portion of the communi- 
ty. While the discussion was in progress, the loquacious 
John Tipton sat in his place as dumb as an oyster ; but, 
when the decision came to be made, he gave his vote in 
the affirmative ! Strange that this man, whose daily life 
was a flagrant violation of some of its prohibitions, 
should sustain an instrument which would shut him out 
forever from what he most coveted — official position ! 
Perhaps, however, he counted on a- much-needed amend- 
ment of life, or saw in this strong religious phalanx the 
nucleus of a party which might be arrayed for the over- 
throw of Sevier, and his own political elevation. What- 
ever the cause, it is capable of demonstration that, at 
some moment during this day's session, Tipton was sud- 
denly converted from a boisterous upholder of secession 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 67 

to a zealous advocate of North Carolina and the old order 
of things. 

When the voting was over, Sevier arose, and, in a tem- 
perate and conciliatory address, alluded to the good order 
and general prosperity which had prevailed during the 
past year, while the people had lived under the old Con- 
stitution. The world, he said, was governed too much. 
Good order, social progress, political prosperity, depend- 
ed not so much upon a multiplicity of laws as on the 
proper enforcement of a few good ones. The old laws 
were good enough ; the trouble bad been in their lax ad- 
ministration. He was glad to see so large a number zeal- 
ous for social order and a strict observance of religious 
duty. Such men were the salt of the earth, shining 
lights set to show the world the beauty of a spiritual life, 
and to lead men up and out of a mere natural and 
animal condition. Without them and their principles 
modern civilization could not exist ; but he questioned 
the expediency of bringing religious tenets into a civil 
constitution. The union of church and state existed in 
some of the older countries, but it was clearly contrary to 
the teachings of the Bible and the example of Christ, 
who had said, " Who made me a judge or a divider over 
you?" and "Sender unto Caesar the things which are 
Caesar's, to God the things which are God's." Such 
things should be left to spiritual teachers; and more zeal- 
ous, intelligent, and self-devoted men of this class could 
not anywhere be found than now ministered to the little 
flock gathered there beyond the mountains. In conclu- 



68 JOHN" SEVIER. 

sion, lie proposed the adoption of the Constitution of 
North Carolina, with such modifications as would more 
perfectly adapt it to the condition of the over-mountain 
people. 

This was done, after considerable discussion, and 
against the written protest of nineteen of the members, 
among whom were Samuel Houston, John Tipton, John 
Blair, James Stuart, and George Maxwell, all of whom 
were soon to be arrayed in bitter hostility to the Frank- 
lin government. During the discussion it had been per- 
tinently asked: " If we adopt the Constitution of North 
Carolina, why not adhere to the government of North 
Carolina ? If we are to live under her laws, how shall we 
be better off when standing alone than when united to 
her, and secure in the protection she now so abundantly 
promises for the future?" This idea was the stock in 
trade of the party which Tipton soon attempted to or- 
ganize in opposition to Sevier's government. 

For North Carolina had" now outdone the gracious 
father in the parable. He made haste to welcome the re- 
turning prodigal ; she had not only gone to meet him 
when he was yet a great way off, but had sought him 
out in that far country before he had the remotest 
thought of returning to the old family mansion. Her 
Legislature had refused to receive the delegates whom 
Sevier had appointed to arrange the terms of separation ; 
it had turned a deaf ear to numerously signed petitions 
to that end from the people of Franklin, but it soon 
afterward had passed an act with this preamble : 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 69 

" WJiereas, many of the inhabitants of Washington, 
Greene, and Sullivan Counties have withdrawn their al- 
legiance from this State, and have been erecting a tem- 
porary separate government among themselves, in con- 
sequence of a general report and belief that the State, 
being inattentive to their welfare, had ceased to regard 
them as citizens, and had made an absolute cession, both 
of the soil and jurisdiction of the country in which they 
reside, to the United States in Congress ; and whereas, 
such report was ill-founded, and it was, and continues to 
be, the desire of the General Assembly of this State to 
extend the benefits of civil government to the citizens 
and inhabitants of the western counties, until such time 
as they might be separated with advantage and conven- 
ience to themselves ; and the Assembly are ready to pass 
over and consign to oblivion the mistakes and miscon- 
duct of such persons in the above-mentioned counties as 
have withdrawn themselves from the government of this 
State, to hear and redress their grievances, if any they 
have, and to afford them the protection and benefits of 
government, until such time as they may be in a condi- 
tion, from their numbers and wealth, to be formed into a 
separate commonwealth, and be received by the United 
States as a member of the Union : Therefore, be it en- 
acted," etc. 

The above would seem to indicate that it was not the 
prodigal son, but the righteous father, who had come to 
a hopeful repentance. However, a reading of the law 
which follows this (( Be it enacted " dispels this illusion. 



70 JOHN SEVIER. 

It provided for a total change in the manner of hold- 
ing elections in the western counties. It authorized any 
" three good and honest men " to open a poll, constitute 
themselves inspectors of election, and return as elected 
whoever might receive a majority of the votes cast for 
State offices by the persons then present. This enabled, 
and it was intended to enable, any ten or a dozen voters, 
in a voting population of perhaps many hundreds, to 
come together and elect members of the North Carolina 
Senate and House of Commons, who, though chosen by 
an insignificant minority, could claim to represent the 
entire community. It is not known who originated the 
measure, but it was evidently conceived in a spirit of bit- 
ter hostility to Sevier and his government. Its covert 
malice was worthy of the man whose adroit diplomacy 
had brought about the treaty of Hopewell ; and it is cer- 
tain that he was then in attendance on the North Caro- 
lina Legislature. Alluding to it subsequently in a letter 
to Governor Caswell, Judge Campbell said: "If it was 
intended to divide us, and set us to massacring one 
another, it was well concerted; but it was an ill-planned 
scheme, if intended for the good of all." 

Then followed a marriage whose bans are forbidden 
by both reason and Scripture — a union of the God- 
fearing, upright, but narrow-minded clergyman with 
the unprincipled demagogue, whom we now style the 
" pot-house politician " — for the race has not altogether 
died out in this country. The clergyman had his Con- 
stitution put in type — sending the precious manuscript 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 71 

all the way to Philadelphia for the purpose — and in 
pamphlet form it was now circulated everywhere among 
the godly, with the appended query, " What better 
are we off than if under North Carolina ? " And, of 
a truth, they were no better off so far as any Constitution 
could make them ; for among the laws of North Caro- 
lina were statutes, as old as 1741, which prohibited 
drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, and profane swearing, 
under a penalty, for each offense, of ten shillings. But, 
alas ! the major part of the population sinned against 
these laws daily, and hence they had fallen into desue- 
tude, for a general tax of a dollar and a quarter per diem 
would impoverish any rural people in a twelvemonth. 

It is not to be supposed that Tipton circulated many 
copies of the evangelical Constitution among his bar- 
room associates ; nevertheless, he used much the same 
arguments as his clerical coadjutor. Neither found at 
first many adherents, and they never had any among 
the more westerly settlers, who were exposed to daily 
incursions from the Indians, and knew no other salva- 
tion from border perils than Nolichucky Jack and his 
riflemen. But in Washington County, among the set- 
tlers along the base of the mountains, who dreaded a 
collision with North Carolina, and now seldom saw the 
face of a Cherokee, they gained a few converts during 
this winter and the following spring and summer — how 
many is not known, but enough to secure, under the 
recent law, a seat in the North Carolina Senate to John 
Tipton. 



72 JOHN SEVIER. 

One of Tipton's boon companions was now the Sheriff 
of Washington County, and he issued, and caused to be 
posted in several inconspicuous places, a notice for an 
election of members to the North Carolina Assembly. 
The paper, which has been preserved in Ramsey's "An- 
nals of Tennessee," was as follows : 

"July, 19th day, 1786. 

" Advekttsemekt. — I hereby give Publick Notice, 
that there will be an election held the third Friday in 
August next, at John Rennoe's, near the Sickamore 
Sholes, where Charles Robertson formerly lived, to 
choose members to represent Washington County in the 
General Assembly of North Carolina, agreeable to an Act 
of Assembly, in that case made and provided, where due 
attendance will be given pr me. 

"Geo. Mitchell, Shff." 

In accordance with this notice an election was held 
at the Sycamore Shoals, where Sevier and his men had 
gathered, six years before, for their weary march to 
King's Mountain. How many came together, or what 
number cast their votes, can not now be ascertained •, 
but ten ballots were as effectual as ten hundred, and con- 
sequently John Tipton was elected to the Senate, and 
James Stuart and Richard White were duly declared 
members of the House of Commons of North Carolina. 
Henceforth, therefore, this " man of Belial " was to be in a 
position to do essential damage to the new government. 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 73 

The fame of Sevier and Shelby had spread throughout 
the State, but the name of John Tipton had never yet 
traveled across the mountains. The North Carolina 
legislators, who knew next to nothing about the western 
counties, knew absolutely nothing about the new Sena- 
tor, except, perhaps, that he was a member of a most 
honorable family. He was plausible of address, and glib 
of tongue ; they would therefore listen to his opinions, 
accept for gospel his statement of facts, and thus let 
their legislation be molded by a man who, caring not a 
Continental dollar for the good of the people, sought 
only the overthrow of Sevier and his own advancement. 
Even Governor Caswell would be influenced by him. 
That he was is apparent from his letters to Sevier, which 
are still preserved in the archives of North Carolina. 
Difficulties, therefore, were to thicken around Sevier ; 
and, beleaguered as he would be by open enmity and 
secret conspiracy, by internal discord and external hos- 
tility, it would be a miracle if he should sustain himself 
and his new government. But, whether in success or in 
defeat, he would walk erect, for he was crippled by no 
unworthy motive, and was sustained by a single desire to 
be of service to his country. Moreover, and more than 
all, he had that to lean upon which makes the strong 
man still stronger — the steadfast devotion of the large- 
minded and large-hearted woman who for thirty-five 
years walked loyally by his side. 

It is probable that Sevier attached at first very little 
importance to the opposition of Tipton and his associates. 



74: JOHN SEVIER. 

He was not accustomed to lightly esteem an adversary ; 
but this man, he must have thought, could have no 
influence in any right-thinking community. But, what- 
ever he may have thought of these movements, a more 
pressing danger now demanded his attention. The 
Cherokees had gone upon the war-path, and were now 
making their long-expected raid upon the border settle- 
ments along the French Broad and Holston. 

By the treaty of Hopewell, as has been stated, the set- 
tlers south of the Holston and French Broad were ad- 
mitted to be intruders upon Cherokee territory. They 
had not yet removed from these lands, and the Creeks, 
who were now in alliance with Spain for the extermination 
or driving off of the American settlers, were constantly 
pressing Old Tassel to make war upon them ; but the old 
king and his chieftains still held back, from a wholesome 
dread of Nolichucky Jack and his riflemen. But, in the 
early days of 1786, the treacherous Indian agent, Joseph 
Martin, could apprise Old Tassel that the sun of Sevier 
was about to suffer a sudden eclipse — that North Caro- 
lina was fixed in the determination not to recognize his 
government, and that she was about to appoint other 
officers to command the western militia, which step 
would render Sevier powerless, and leave the intruding 
settlers altogether at the mercy of the Cherokees. That 
Martin did this is not positively known, and I would not 
picture him any worse than he was. The incontestable 
truth about this man is bad enough, and sad enough, 
and calls for no exaggeration. However, this much is 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 75 

fact — that Martin was then among the Cherokees, and 
the duties of his office brought him into intimate rela- 
tions with their king ; and that Old Tassel was, about 
that time, informed of an intended reorganization of the 
western militia, which did not, and could not, occur till 
the North Carolina Legislature came together, some 
months later. Martin was fully informed as to the 
■views and intentions of the leaders of that body, and 
only some person having that knowledge could haye 
given Old Tassel that information. 

The old king loved peace, but his warriors were 
impatient of the near neighborhood of the whites, and 
were smarting under the repeated taunts of the Creek 
chief McGillivray, who charged them with cowardice 
because they tamely submitted to the encroachments of 
the pale-faces. The power of an Indian king in time 
of war is supposed to be absolute ; but, like such civ- 
ilized monarchs as are nominally absolute, he is con- 
trolled, more or less, by the will of his people. So it 
was that Old Tassel, averse as he was to hostilities, 
had to see early in July a strong body of his warriors 
go upon the war-path. For some unknown reason, 
they did not descend at once upon the encroaching 
settlers, in defending whom Sevier would have come 
in conflict with the United States and the Hopewell 
treaty ; but they fell upon those north of the Holston, 
in what is now Knox County, who were clearly within 
treaty lines, and therefore entitled to both State and 
national protection. They first attacked the house of 



76 JOHN SEVIER. 

a Mr. Biram, on Beaver Creek, and killed two young 
men in the neighborhood ; and then they scattered, to 
spread havoc throughout the settlements. Many of 
the settlers fell back at once to stations higher up the 
Holston ; others collected behind hastily constructed de- 
fenses, in hopes to hold their ground till Sevier could 
come to their rescue. 

Their messengers found Sevier eighty miles away, at 
his home on the Nolichucky. He heard the tidings 
without surprise, for hostile action was daily looked 
for from the Indians. This might be a mere raid to 
drive off the intruding settlers, or it might be the 
signal for an expected general savage uprising along 
the entire border. Whichever it was, Sevier did not 
pause to reflect upon it, or to question if he should 
come in conflict with United States authority. His 
old comrades were in danger, and that was enough to 
bring Nolichucky Jack to the rescue. Without stop- 
ping to call in his militia, he sprang at once into the 
saddle, and, with only the half-dozen men who were 
about him, was in a few hours on his way to the 
border as fast as his fleet bay mare — the nimblest- 
footed animal in the territory — could carry him. 

The attack had been made on the 20th of July ; 
and on the 23d, gathering his force as he rode along, 
Sevier, with one hundred and sixty of his men, was 
at Houston's Station, midway between Little River and 
the Little Tennessee, and only twelve miles from the 
Indian towns on the Tellico. The messengers had 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 77 

ridden eighty miles, Sevier one hundred and ten, mus- 
tering meanwhile this body of riflemen, within the space 
of three days ! It was by such celerity of movement 
that he utterly disconcerted his savage enemies. While 
they looked for him in one quarter, he was miles away 
in another — in the Indian rear, or in the very heart of 
their country. But he never moved without a well-con- 
sidered plan ; and now as he rode along he heard that 
the Cherokees were being held at bay by the Holston 
settlers, posted behind their hastily constructed de- 
fenses. He knew the men, and, knowing them, felt 
sure they could hold out till his regular militia had 
time to come to their rescue. One of his brigadiers, 
General Cocke, could be thoroughly depended upon. 
He was the same who had been, in 1776, when a cap- 
tain of militia, the first to suggest that the one hun- 
dred and seventy men who held Fort Patrick Henry, 
should march from behind their log walls to win, in 
the open field, the battle of Long Island Flats. On 
his rapid way Sevier sent back word to Cocke to mus- 
ter a force as quickly as he could, and hasten to the 
rescue of the settlers. Then he pushed on to Hous- 
ton's, thirty miles in the rear of the raiding Cherokees. 
Arrived at Houston's, Sevier gave his men a night's 
rest, and then he plunged at once with his slender 
force into the very heart of the Indian country. The 
war they were visiting upon the homes of the whites 
he would carry to the wigwams of the Cherokees, and 
it would go hard if they did not pay for this raid, 



78 JOHN SEVIER. 

with interest trebly compounded. To appreciate the 
boldness of this movement, it needs to be understood 
that the body of raiders now in Sevier's rear numbered 
not less than five hundred, and that he was advancing 
in the face of twenty-five hundred active warriors, who 
would soon surround him, and might ambush every 
pass by which he could return to the settlements ; for 
he was entering a mountain-region, covered with for- 
est, and broken into narrow defiles, where a handful 
could dispute the passage of a thousand — which defiles 
were often the only passable route for a body of horse- 
men. The movement was extremely perilous, and, for 
any other man to attempt it, would have been the 
height of temerity. But there seems to have been 
some magic about Sevier which gave success to the 
most desperate enterprises ; and he had himself come 
to believe in his own invincibility. This and other 
exploits of his would be incredible were they not fully 
verified as authentic history. 

Leaving the Cherokee villages along the Tellico upon 
his flank, Sevier forded the Little Tennessee at Island 
Town, crossed the Tellico Plains, and then, scaling the 
Smoky Mountains, fell upon what were known as the 
valley towns, along the Hiwassee. Three of these he at 
once destroyed, killing fifteen warriors. The rest of the 
Indians fled panic-stricken into the forest and the neigh- 
boring highlands, leaving their homes, as they supposed, 
to certain destruction. But Sevier now held his hand. 
He had done enough to requite ten to one the raid of 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 79 

the savages, and to deter them from further aggression ; 
and he never wantonly destroyed lives or property. 
Besides, prudence demanded that he should make his 
way out from the savage cordon by which he was encir- 
cled before the warriors could concentrate and effectu- 
ally obstruct his progress. 

To give his troops a night's rest, he went into camp, 
in one of the abandoned Indian villages, sending out 
trusty scouts to scour the country, and see that it was 
clear of any body of the enemy. The scouts soon re- 
turned, reporting that they had struck the trail of a 
large number of the enemy. Instantly every horse was 
bridled and every rifleman was in his saddle. Follow- 
ing the lead of the scouts, they soon struck the Indian 
trail, which Sevier's experienced eye at once saw was that 
of fully a thousand men, commanded, as he surmised, by 
John Watts, the most cunning and daring of all the 
Cherokee leaders. Sevier knew him well, Watts having 
once guided him to the destruction of the Chickamauga 
towns ; and he did not court a conflict with this redoubt- 
able Indian chief, backed by a force six to his one, and 
with rugged defiles and mountains a mile high between 
him and the settlements. The route taken by Watts was 
the one Sevier would naturally have followed. It led 
through a narrow ravine where, doubtless, the wily half- 
breed now lay in wait for the whites, concealed in the 
forest undergrowth. Sevier divined this, and, turning 
his horse's head, he led his men back to the encamp- 
ment. There, setting a strong picket to guard against 



80 JOHN SEVIER. 

surprise, he gave his weary troop a few hours' rest, and 
then in utter silence, before the break of day, he led his 
men, by an unfrequented route, up and over the tall and 
rugged Unakas, and turned his back upon his enemies. 

This intrepid raid of Sevier into the heart of their 
country struck terror amoug the Cherokees, and led the 
marauders along the Hols ton to retreat hastily to their 
homes upon the Tellico. His end thus accomplished, 
Sevier led his little force, without the loss of a single 
man or a single horse, back to the settlements. 

Meanwhile, General Cocke had not been inactive. 
The messengers of Sevier reached him on the 23d, the 
day of his own arrival at Houston's Station. Muster- 
ing at once two hundred and fifty men, Cocke set out 
without delay to the relief of the Holston settlers ; but 
hearing of his approach, and of the advance of Sevier 
into their country, the Indians hastily fled, leaving the 
settlement to its wonted quiet. Having certain infor- 
mation that the savages who had killed the two men 
were mostly from along the Little Tennessee and Tellico, 
Cocke followed at once upon their trail, determined to 
demand them from Old Tassel for summary punishment. 
It was a bold movement, but Cocke was a brave man ; 
besides, he counted on the dread the Cherokees had of 
Sevier, and the panic his advance had already spread 
among the warriors. 

Arriving unmolested at what is still known as 'Chota 
Ford, six miles from Echota, Cocke sent forward a pris- 
oner, inviting the chieftains to a conference. This ford 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 81 

is a beautiful spot, fringed with low hills, that are still 
crowned with gigantic oaks and poplars, some of which 
have looked down on stirring scenes, for they stood there 
when 'Chota Ford was the gateway into the Indian coun- 
try ; when innumerable red warriors waded its broad but 
shallow stream ; when mounted white men galloped 
across it to hunt those warriors in their mountain lairs ; 
and when, at a later time, " Old Hickory " led over it 
his three thousand Tennesseeans, cutting for them a 
swath through the forest, still called Jackson's road, 
straight as an arrow, and broad as any boulevard on the 
continent. But all these things have passed away, and 
now 'Chota Ford is as still as a churchyard, except at 
seasons of high water, when an old negro, crooning a low 
hymn, ferries travelers over the river at a dime a trip. 

To this quiet spot came the Cherokee chieftains on 
the 31st of July, 1786, to hold a "talk" with the pale- 
faces after the Indian fashion. Among them were Old 
Tassel, Hanging Maw, and other noted warriors, all be- 
decked in leather breeches fringed with wampum, and 
their heads crowned with eagle-plumes or the tail of the 
rooster. Conspicuous by his absence was John Watts, 
the renowned half-breed, who might still have been lying 
in wait in that narrow defile beyond the ITnakas — waiting 
for Sevier, who was now quietly at home with his "bon- 
nie Kate," in his shady Mount Pleasant, far away on the 
Nolichucky. 

The Indians were grave, dignified, and taciturn, and 
their manner indicated that they were not entirely sure 



82 JOHN" SEVIER. 

that John Watts had not at last entrapped the great 
eagle of the pale-faces. But their bearing made no im- 
pression on Cocke, who abruptly opened the conference 
by upbraiding them for their murders and robberies, and 
their flagrant violation of the treaty with the people of 
Franklin ; and he added : " We, in plain words, demand 
from you the murderers who have killed our people ; and 
all the horses you have stolen from us, and from the 
people on the Kentucky road and the Cumberland. 
On these terms we will be brothers with you, and con- 
tinue so until you do more murder on our frontiers, 
when we will come down and destroy the town that does 
the mischief. On these terms we will make peace with 
you, and be friends. If not, we are warriors. It is what 
you will." 

To this, straightening up his bent form, with all the 
air of an Indian king, Old Tassel answered as follows : 
" Now I am going to speak to you, brothers. We have 
smoked. The Great Man above sent the tobacco. It 
will make your hearts straight. I come from 'Chota. I 
see you. You are my brothers. I am glad to see my 
brothers, and hold them fast by the hand. The Great 
Man above made us both, and he hears the talk. They 
are not my people who spilt the blood, and spoiled the 
good talk a little. The men that did the murder are 
bad men, and no warriors. They are gone, and I can't 
tell where they are gone. They lived in Coytoy, at the 
mouth of Holston. This is all I have to say. The Great 
Man above has sent you this white talk to straight your 



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLES. 83 

hearts through. I give you this pipe, in token of a 
straight talk. I am very sorry my people has done 
wrong, to occasion you to turn your backs. A little talk 
is as good as much talk; too much is not good." 

To this Cocke very briefly replied that, as Old Tassel 
was not disposed to give up the murderers, as required 
by the treaty, he should take and deal with them him- 
self. He should go at once to Coytoy, and there, if they 
desired any further talk, the chieftains might come to 
him. This ended the conference, and Cocke set out at 
once for Coytoy, a small Indian village near Southwest 
Point, where the Clinch and Holston unite to form the 
broad Tennessee. He had scarcely entered the place, be- 
fore some of the Holston settlers who were with him rec- 
ognized two of the savages as being with the party that 
did the murders. They were at once sent, by well- 
directed rifle-shots, to the happy hunting-grounds, and 
then their cabins and other properties were destroyed, 
and the village council-house, in which the raid had been 
planned, was sent skyward in smoke and cinders. But 
no damage was done to other portions of the village, the 
intention being to impress the Indians that none but the 
guilty would be punished. 

The ruins were still smoldering when, on the 3d 
of August, Old Tassel and his principal chiefs entered 
the village. Among them now was John Watts, who 
had brought to them tidings of the havoc done by Sevier, 
and of his escape from the trap which he had laid for 
him. He and the rest were entirely subdued and crest- 



84 JOHN" SEVIER. 

fallen. It was of no avail to fight the pale-face chief, 
who moved like the wind and smote like the whirlwind. 
This they said, and much more that I will not repeat, 
for before me are the words of Old Tassel : " A little 
talk is as good as much talk ; too much is not good." 
Suffice it to say that the Indians agreed to give up the 
other murderers as soon as they could be secured, and 
promised to live in perpetual amity with their white 
brothers. One of Cocke's officers, visiting them not long 
afterward, reported : " They seem very friendly, and well 
satisfied we should settle the country ; and they say they 
will sell us the country to the south of the [Little] Ten- 
nessee, if we will keep the Creeks from killing them ; or 
they will leave the country entirely, if we will give them 
goods for it ; and I am convinced, from their late con- 
duct, and accounts I have had from them, that the whole 
country to the Georgia line, on this side of Cumberland 
Mountain, may be had from them for a very trifling 
sum." All which might have come to pass, but for the 
continued and obstinate resistance of North Carolina to 
Sevier's government. 

Thus the well-directed energy of Sevier and Cocke 
speedily dispelled the war-cloud which had gathered over 
the Cherokee nation ; but there still remained the more 
portentous cloud which overhung the whole frontier, 
and whose scattered forces McGillivray, at the behest of 
Spain, was striving to gather into his hand, that he 
might hurl them, in twenty thousand lightning-bolts, 
upon all the border settlements. 



CHAPTER V. 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 



Having now, for a time at least, reduced the Chero- 
kees to peaceable behavior, Sevier could turn his atten- 
tion to affairs at home. They were not in an entirely 
satisfactory condition. The unnatural marriage between 
roistering ambition and well-meaning bigotry was already 
producing a progeny of evils, young yet, and incapable 
of much mischief, but bound to grow — as all evils do — 
unless strangled in their infancy. How to strangle them 
was now the question. How could Sevier do this except 
by conciliating their source of life and strength, the sa- 
pient Legislature of North Carolina ? 

He had made overtures to that body for a friendly 
adjustment of affairs at its previous session ; but his mes- 
sengers had been repulsed, and denied even a hearing. 
But in the threatening attitude of Indian affairs it was 
now important that all pending difficulties should be ar- 
ranged with North Carolina, and hence he determined to 
send to its Legislature again other messengers — men 
gifted with both logic and the art of persuasion — in the 



86 JOHN SEVIER. 

hope of bringing about an honorable adjustment. For 
the man of logic he chose David Campbell, then holding 
the appointment of Chief-Justice from both Franklin 
and North Carolina ; and, for the man of rhetoric, Will- 
iam Cocke, the same who had recently "persuaded" Old 
Tassel — for General Cocke could talk as well as fight, 
and, though somewhat blunt and plain-spoken, could so 
sugar-coat his words as to make them palatable to any 
mind not blunted by prejudice or obstinate ignorance. 
To secure these commissioners greater consideration, 
Sevier himself addressed Governor Caswell a letter in ad- 
vance of their departure, the principal portions of which 
were as follows : 

"Mount Pleasant, Franklin, 28/A October, 1*786. 

" Sie : Our Assembly has again appointed commis- 
sioners to wait on the parent State, which I hope will 
cheerfully consent to the separation as it once before 
did. 

"It gives us inexpressible concern to think that any 
disputes should arise between us, more especially when 
we did not in the first instance pray the separation, 
but adopted our course after what was done by act of 
your Assembly. We humbly conceived we should do no 
wrong by endeavoring to provide for ourselves ; neither 
had we the most distant idea that the cession act would 
be repealed, otherwise matters might not have been car- 
ried to the length they are. The propriety of the repeal 
we do not attempt to scrutinize, but permit us to say we 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 87 

discover many embarrassments both parties are likely to 
labor under in consequence of it. . . . 

" I hope your Assembly will take under their serious 
consideration our present condition, and we flatter our- 
selves that august body will not submerge in ruin so many 
of their late citizens, who have fought and bled in behalf 
of the parent State, and are still ready to do so again 
should there be occasion. Our local and remote situation 
is the only reason that induces us to wish for a separa- 
tion. Your Constitution and laws we revere, and we con- 
sider ourselves happy that we have had it in our power to 
get the same established in the State of Franklin, al- 
though it has occasioned some confusion among ourselves. 
We do, in the most candid and solemn manner, assure 
you that we do not wish to separate from you on any 
other terms, but on those that may be perfectly consist- 
ent with the honor and interest of each party ; neither 
do we believe there are any among us who would wish 
for a separation, did they believe the parent State would 
suffer any real inconveniency in consequence thereof. We 
would be willing to stand or fall together, under any 
dangerous crisis whatever. . . . 

" We can not be of opinion that any real advantages 
can be obtained by a longer connection. Our trade and 
commerce are altogether carried on with other States, 
therefore neither party is benefited on that head ; and 
whether it can be suggested that the business of govern- 
ment can be extended from five to eight hundred miles 
distance, is a matter I leave to your own good sense to 



g8 JOHN SEVIER. 

judge of ; and, further, it can not be supposed that the 
inhabitants who reside at that distance are not equally 
entitled to the blessings of civil government with their 
neighbors who live east, south, or at any other point, and 
not one fourth of the distance from the seat of govern- 
ment, and who enjoy the incomparable advantages of the 
roads and other easy communications you have on the 
east of the Appalachians." 

This much Sevier had written, when it evidently oc- 
curred to him that Tipton, in his seat in the North Caro- 
lina Senate, would be in a position to throw serious ob- 
stacles in the way of any negotiation, and he added : " I 
heartily wish your Legislature had either not repealed or 
never passed the cession act, for probably it may occa- 
sion much confusion, especially should your Assembly 
listen too much to prejudiced persons, though this 
I have no right to suggest. I fear we may have a 
sufficient quarrel on our hands without any among 
ourselves. 

"I am authorized to say that no people can think 
more highly of your government than those who want 
the separation, and they only wish it to answer their 
better conveniency ; but, though wanting to be separated 
in government, they wish to be united in friendship, and 
hope that mutual good offices may ever pass between the 
parent and infant State, which also is my wish and de- 
sire." 

The Legislature of North Carolina began its session 
early in November, but it was not till the 30th of that 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 89 

month that General Cocke could set out on the em- 
bassy, and then Judge Campbell was confined to his 
home by sickness. He could not, therefore, accompany 
Cocke, but, instead, he sent by him to Governor Caswell a 
letter to be laid before the Assembly. This letter throws 
so much light upon the condition of things in Franklin, 
that a portion of it is here quoted. He said: "If we set 
out wrong, or were too hasty in our separation, this coun- 
try is not altogether to blame ; your State pointed out the 
line of conduct which we adopted ; we really thought 
you in earnest when you ceded us to Congress. If you 
then thought we ought to be separate, or if you now 
think we ever ought to be, permit us to complete the 
work that is more than half done ; suffer us to give 
energy to our laws and force to our councils, by saying 
we are a separate and independent people, and we will 
yet be happy. I suppose it will astonish your Excellency 
to hear that there are many families settled within nine 
miles of the Cherokee nation. What will be the conse- 
quence of those emigrations ? Our laws and government 
must include those people, or they will become danger- 
ous ; it is vain to say they must be restrained. Have not 
all America extended their back settlements in opposi- 
tion to laws and proclamations ? The Indians are now 
become pusillanimous, and consequently will be more 
and more encroached upon ; they must, they will be, cir- 
cumscribed. 

" It was not from a love of novelty or the desire of 
title, I believe, that our leaders were induced to engage in 



90 JOHN SEVIER. 

the present revolution, "but from pure necessity. We 
were getting into confusion, and you know any govern- 
ment is better than anarchy. Matters will be different- 
ly represented to you, but, you may rely on it, a great 
majority of the people are anxious for separation. Na- 
ture has separated us; do not oppose her in her work. By 
acquiescing you will bless us, and do yourself no injury : 
you will bless us by uniting the disaffected ; and do your- 
self no injury, because you lose nothing but people who 
are a clog on your govern ment, and to whom you can 
not do equal justice by reason of their detached situa- 
tion." 

The foregoing letters of Sevier and Campbell were 
duly laid before the Legislature by Governor Caswell, 
and at the bar of that body— whom, by a great stretch of 
courtesy, Sevier termed " august" — General Cocke ap- 
peared early in December. He was given a hearing, and 
the address he made on the occasion is fully reported in 
Judge Haywood's "History of Tennessee." It is too 
lengthy for reproduction here, but a brief synopsis of it 
can scarcely be omitted, inasmuch as it gives a clear view 
of the situation of the settlers, as seen by one of them- 
selves ; and expresses the sentiments of Sevier and of all 
the best men beyond the Alleghanies. 

General Cocke began by pathetically depicting the 
situation of his distressed countrymen. He ascribed the 
separation, as had Sevier and Campbell, to the difficult 
and perilous condition in which the western settlers had 
been placed by the act of cession of June, 1784. They 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 91 

were surrounded by hostile savages, who often commit- 
ted upon them the most shocking barbarities ; and by 
the passage of that act they suddenly found themselves 
without the ability to raise or subsist troops for their 
protection, " without authority to levy men, without 
power to levy taxes for the support of internal govern- 
ment, and without the hope that any of their necessary 
expenditures would be defrayed by the State of North 
Carolina, which had then become no more interested in 
their safety than any other of the United States. . . . 
These considerations full in view, what were the people 
of the ceded territory to do to avoid the blow of the up- 
lifted tomahawk ? How were the women and children 
to be rescued from the impending destruction ? Would 
Congress come to their aid ? Alas ! Congress had not 
yet accepted them, and possibly never would." And, if 
it did accept of them, it would take time to deliberate 
upon their situation, and in that time all might be lost. 
"The powers of Congress were too feeble to enforce con- 
tributions." Action on the part of the several States 
would have to be voluntary ; and would they be willing 
to burden themselves for the defense of a people not con- 
nected with them by any ties of near kindred ? And, if 
they gave willing aid, might it not be too limited to do 
any good ; too tardy to be of any practical service ? 
What were the settlers to do in such circumstances ? 
Would common prudence justify a reliance upon such 
prospects ? Could their lives, and the lives of their 
families, be staked upon them ? Immediate and press- 



92 JOHN SEVIER. 

ing necessity called for the power to concentrate the 
scanty means they possessed to save themselves from 
destruction. "A cruel and insidious foe was at their 
doors. Delay was but another name for death ! " They 
might supinely wait for events, but the first event would 
be the yell of the savage through all the settlements. 
Their unpreparedness would be sure to invite attack, for 
it was the nature of the savage to take sudden advantage 
of the weakness of an enemy. 

And, he continued : " The hearts of the people of 
North Carolina should not be hardened against their 
brethren, who have stood by their side in perilous times, 
and never heard their cry of distress without instantly 
marching to their aid. They have bled in profusion to 
save you from bondage, and from the sanguinary hands 
of a relentless enemy, whose mildest laws for the punish- 
ment of rebellion are beheading and quartering. When, 
in the late war, driven from your homes by the presence 
of that enemy, we gave to many of you a sanctified 
asylum, and gladly performed the duties of hospitality to 
a people we loved so dearly ; and e^ery hand was ready 
to be raised for your protection. . . . 

( ' The act for our dismissal was, indeed, recalled in 
the winter of 1784. What, then, was our condition ? 
More penniless, defenseless, and unprepared, if possible, 
than before, and under the same necessity to meet and 
consult together for our common safety. The resources 
of the country were all locked up, and where is the record 
that shows any money or supplies sent to us ? — a single 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 93 

soldier ordered to be stationed on the frontier, or any 
plan formed for mitigating the horrors of our exposed 
situation ? On the contrary, the savages are irritated 
by the stoppage of those goods which were promised as 
compensation for the lands taken from them. If North 
Carolina must yet hold us in subjection, it should at 
least understand to what a state of distraction, suffering, 
and poverty her vacillating conduct has reduced us ; and 
the liberal hand of generosity should be widely opened 
for our relief from the pressure of our present circum- 
stances ; all animosity should be laid aside and buried 
in deep oblivion, and our errors be considered as the off- 
spring of greater errors committed by yourselves. Far 
from your hearts should be the unnatural purpose of 
adding to the affliction from which we have suffered too 
much already. It belongs to a magnanimous people to 
give attentive consideration to circumstances in order to 
form a just judgment upon a subject so much deserving 
of their serious meditation ; and, having formed such a 
judgment, to pursue with sedulous anxiety a course suit- 
able to the dignity of their own character, consistent 
with their own honor, and best calculated to allay that 
storm of distraction in which their hapless children have 
been so unexpectedly involved. If the mother State 
shall judge the expense of our adhesion too heavy to 
be borne, let us remain as we are, to support our- 
selves by our own exertions ; if otherwise, let the 
means for the continuance of our connection be sup- 
plied with a degree of liberality that will demonstrate 

10 



94 JOHN SEVIER. 

sincerity on the one hand and secure affection on the 
other." 

With these legislators the words of Cocke could find 
no "fit audience.'' He had urged that the "liberal 
hand of generosity" should be opened for the relief of 
the western settlers, who, let it be remembered, had, 
with their own blood and treasure, acquired every rood 
of land then possessed by North Carolina beyond the 
mountains. With grants of some of this land that State 
had paid the men who had fought for her in the Kevolu- 
tion, and from sales of the remainder she was daily in 
receipt of a large revenue. But all this these legislators 
forgot, or did not care to remember. Before their nar- 
row minds, besotted by ignorance, there doubtless arose 
the vision of a standing army, perhaps a thousand strong, 
supported by North Carolina for the protection of the 
border. Their sole political maxim was, "Escape your 
taxes, and keep down taxation," and now they saw that 
a half-dollar, perhaps a whole one, was likely to be ex- 
tracted from every one of their pockets. 

But all men, however degraded, have some sense of 
justice. No human being ever yet committed a de- 
liberate wrong without inventing for himself, or having 
invented for him, some sophistical excuse to conceal its 
enormity from his conscience. These legislators had at 
hand embodied sophistry and downright falsehood in the 
"man of Belial," who now assured them that these tales 
of Indian atrocity were told merely to frighten money 
out of the State treasury ; that the settlers, though too 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 95 

feeble to stand alone, were well enough off under the 
sheltering wing of North Carolina ; that the Cherokees 
were copper-complexioned Christians — wise as serpents, 
but gentle as doves — and altogether harmless if their 
rights were not encroached upon ; and that all that was 
needed to restore peace, good order, and a delightful 
state of things among the over-mountain people, was to 
depose their factious leaders, and put new and loyal men 
into every civil and military office in the Territory. 
Some men fit for such positions could be found over 
there — among whom he may have mentioned himself, 
Martin, and other of his boon companions — but the 
larger number might be drawn from among the friends 
of the legislators in North Carolina. 

A lie may prosper if there is no one by to contradict 
it, and it accords with the views and inclinations of its 
auditory. There was no one present to expose these 
falsehoods, and they were exactly adapted to the sordid 
views of these legislators. They offered also an agree- 
able salve to their feebly aroused consciences, and con- 
sequently these Solons proceeded to trample the truth 
under foot, and to turn and rend the men who had 
uttered it. But what they did will best be told by 
quoting from a letter that Governor Caswell wrote to 
Sevier. It was as follows : 

"Kinston, 23d February, 1787. 

" Sir : I was favored with your letter of the 28th of 
October, on the subject of a separate and independent 



96 JOHN SEVIER. 

government on your side of the Appalachians, which 
I did myself the honor of laying before the General 
Assembly. Their resolutions and determinations on 
that subject, I had nattered myself it would have been 
in my power to have forwarded you copies of by this 
time. It must, therefore, suffice that I acquaint you for 
the present that the Assembly, from the representations of 
persons from among yourselves, was induced to believe it 
was proper for the people to return to subjection to the 
laws and government of North Carolina ; that they are 
not yet of strength and opulence sufficient to support an 
independent State ; that they, the Assembly, wish to 
continue the benefits and protection of the State toward 
them until such time as their numbers and wealth will 
enable them to do for themselves. . . . 

"Thus, sir, you have in substance, as far as I recol- 
lect, the amount of the proceedings of the Assembly, 
save the appointment of civil and military officers for the 
three old and a new county ; the brigade to be com- 
manded by Evan Shelby, Esq. In the civil department 
Judge Campbell is reappointed ; and the representatives 
have carried out commissions for the county officers, 
civil and military. I have not a doubt but a new gov- 
ernment may be shortly established, if the people would 
unite, submit to the former government, and petition for 
a separation. This, I think, is the only constitutional 
mode, and I firmly believe, if pursued, will be a means 
of effecting a separation on friendly terms, which I much 
wish." 



FRUITLESS OVERTURES. 97 

More distinctly than the Governor states it, the Legis- 
lature had declared that all offices, both civil and mili- 
tary, whose incumbents had exercised authority under 
the new State, should be considered vacant, and proper 
persons should be appointed to fill them by the Assembly, 
and they be at once commissioned by the Governor as the 
law directed. This removed from office every justice of 
the peace and every commissioned officer in every regi- 
ment in the western counties, thus at one blow decapitat- 
ing Sevier's government and depriving the country of ex- 
perienced civil officers whom it trusted, and of military 
leaders under whom it had served for years, and without 
whom it could not hope to be safe from the murderous 
incursions of the Cherokees. 

Having done this, the Assembly proceeded to fill these 
offices with inexperienced men, the most of whom were 
non-residents, unknown to the people of Franklin, and 
not a few were worthless characters, appointed through 
the favoritism of some functionary of North Carolina. 
Colonels for Washington and Sullivan Counties they 
made of John Tipton and his creature, George Max- 
well ; and for a new county — which had been erected 
and named Hawkins — of one Hutchings, a hair-brained 
North Carolinian, without the coolness of judgment 
which might be required by circumstances. 

Thus did North Carolina do her utmost to alienate 
the affections of the western settlers, and introduce 
among them such elements of discord as might incite 
to actual war, which, in the discordant relations then 



98 JOHN SEVIER. 

existing between the various States, would probably 
have been attended by wide-spread and disastrous con- 
sequences. For the evil would not have been confined 
to that narrow arena. A small fire, carelessly lighted by 
some idle camper-out, has been known to overspread and 
overwhelm a mighty forest. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 

The "sufficient quarrel/' to which Sevier referred 
in his letter to Governor Caswell, was a vast combina- 
tion which the Creek chief, McGillivray, at the in- 
stance of Spain, had been, since June> 1784, striving to 
form among the Southwestern Indians for the extermi- 
nation of the "Western settlers. Of his hostile designs 
Sevier had early intelligence, and in May, 1786, he 
wrote to Governor Telfair, of Georgia, apprising him 
of the danger. The Governor replied that the Creeks 
were constantly harassing the Georgia frontier ; that 
he was attempting to negotiate a peace with them, but 
was fearful a war was inevitable ; and he suggested that 
in case of hostilities there should be co-operation be- 
tween the forces of Franklin and Georgia. To this 
Sevier cordially assented, and on August 27, 1786, Gov- 
ernor Telfair dispatched to him commissioners, with 
his appointment as brigadier-general in the army of 
Georgia, and a letter in which he represented that it 
would "be greatly to the success of both armies to 
beofin their movements at one and the same time," and 



100 JOHN SEVIER. 

suggesting the 1st of November as the date for march- 
ing. 

The reception which Sevier gave the Georgia com- 
missioners may be gathered from a letter addressed to 
Governor Telfair by Major Elholm, a distinguished 
Polish officer of Pulaski's Legion, who happened to be 
then in Franklin. Murray's Grammar was not at that 
time in existence, and English was not the major's 
vernacular language ; nevertheless, he expresses himself 
with sufficient force and clearness. His letter was as 
follows : 

"Governor Sevier's, Franklin, September SO, 1786. 

"Sir: I does myself the honour to inform your 
Excellency that your commissioners set out from this 
the 28th inst., by the way of Kentucky and Cumber- 
land. They were received very politely by his Excel- 
lency the Governor, from whose zeal for to assist you, 
aided by the inclination of the Pranks, I am fully 
convinced your embassy will meet all wished success 
by the Assembly of this State, which is ordered to 
assemble 12th next, by his Excellency's command, in 
consequence thereof. Several of the inhabitants have 
waited on the Governor, for to be informed of the 
contents of the embassy from Georgia. And when 
being acquainted therewith, it gave me great pleasure 
to find no other apprehension appeared, but that of 
making peace with the Creeks without fighting, by 
which occasion, they said, so favourable a chance for 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 101 

humbling that nation would fall dormant. The Gov- 
ernor, in order that the Americans may reap a benefit 
from the dread the Cherokees and Chickasaws feels 
for the displeasure and power of the Franks, he has 
dispatched letters to them, offering them protection 
against the Creek nation, with condition that they join 
him. 

"Cumberland (Kobertson's colony), it seems, has 
at this time in contemplation to join in government 
with the Franks. If so, so much the better, and it 
would surely be their interest so to do, as they are yet 
few in numbers, and often harassed by the Indians. 

"Judging from apparent circumstances, you may 
promise yourself one thousand riflemen and two hun- 
dred cavalry, excellently mounted and accoutred, from 
this State, to act in conjunction with Georgia. 

"Governor Sevier has received letters from the prin- 
cipal men in Cumberland, which inform him of a con- 
vention held lately at that place, when commissioners 
were chosen by the people with power for to join with 
the Franks in their government. 

"Mr. John Tipton's party, which is against the 
party of the new government, seems deep in decline 
at present, which proves very favourable to the em- 
bassy from Georgia." 

The Franklin Legislature came together on the call 
of Sevier, on the 12th of October, and at once passed 
an act authorizing the Governor to call out, for imme- 



102 JOHI* SEVIER. 

diate service, one fourth of the militia, and to hold 
the entire force in readiness to repel any attack from 
the Indians. 

The troops thus called for were at once enrolled, 
and held in readiness to march on the demand of 
Georgia; but they were not dispatched immediately to 
the frontier, because McGillivray promptly disavowed 
the acts of his marauding followers, and expressed a 
desire for peace with the Georgians. This proposal 
was merely a subterfuge to gain time for more effi- 
cient preparation, and to make certain of the co-opera- 
tion of the Cherokees. It was so understood by Sevier, 
who now made ready his entire militia for what was 
generally believed to be a more formidable w r ar than 
any that had yet threatened the western settlements. 
Thus the country remained — in daily expectation of 
attack from twelve thousand combined Creeks, Semi- 
noles, and Cherokees — until the ensuing March (1787), 
and then came to Sevier the already quoted letter 
from Governor Caswell, which informed him that the 
Legislature of North Carolina had decapitated every 
officer of his government, from himself, the highest, 
down to the lowest civil and military official. This 
action could not be mistaken. It meant "rule or 
ruin" to North Carolina or to Franklin, and perhaps 
to both. Another forward step on the part of Sevier 
would be downright, defiant rebellion. This he fully 
understood, and when he took it he was prepared to 
meet all the consequences of his action. 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 103 

It was a momentous crisis in Sevier's career, and in 
that also of the nearly thirty thousand people whose 
well-being and safety depended upon his continuing to 
be their leader. Only two courses were open to him — 
either submission or open rebellion ; and that he fully 
appreciated the gravity of his position is shown by the 
fact that he took no less than thirty days to decide 
upon his action. He decided upon rebellion ; but, in 
doing so, I think it will be seen that he was actuated 
by the same disinterested patriotism which had so 
often before led him to hazard his all for the good 
of his country. 

To judge correctly of his subsequent course, it is 
necessary to take a brief view of the circumstances by 
which he was now surrounded. The country was feeling 
the effects of the Spanish imbroglio which, from 1784 
to 1796, harassed the Western settlers and endangered 
the continuance of the Union. A full account of this 
perilous complication falls more appropriately into a 
life of Robertson than into one of Sevier, but a brief 
view of it must here be taken, because it rested with 
Sevier, more than with any other man, to decide whether 
the Spanish proposals should be accepted or rejected 
by the Western settlers. 

For a brief period Spain had shaken off the leth- 
argy in which she had been sunk for more than a cent- 
ury. Recalling her former greatness, her able and far- 
sighted king, Charles III, had asserted for her again a 
voice among European nations, and he had resolved to 



104 JOHN SEVIER. 

infuse new life into her vast possessions beyond the 
Atlantic. To exalt Spain, and cripple the world-power 
of Great Britain, he had joined with France in aiding 
the revolted colonies to achieve their independence ; 
and he had planned the erection of a great empire in 
America, a new Spain, to extend from the Alleghanies 
to the Pacific, with New Orleans as its capital and 
chief port of entry. All the vast region beyond the 
Mississippi was then Spanish property. Spain also 
held Florida, and the mouths of the great river, and 
claimed so much of the territory east of it as is west 
of the eastern angle of the Gulf of Mexico, and the 
Hiwassee, Clinch, and Tennessee Eivers — that is to say, 
nearly all of the present States of Alabama and Missis- 
sippi, so much of Tennessee as lies west of those rivers, 
and a considerable portion of Kentucky to its northern 
boundary on the Ohio. This vast region Charles III 
designed should be a great mediaeval empire, free from 
the intrusion of Anglo-Saxon ideas, and a strong bul- 
wark to Catholic Christianity. He had overlooked 
the insignificant settlements on the Watauga and in 
Kentucky ; but the war which crippled Great Britain 
was no sooner over than he awoke to the fact that, 
while he had been intent upon crushing one enemy, 
another had sprung into life — an enemy fewer in num- 
bers but far more dangerous, because nearer home, and 
already proclaiming civil and religious liberty at the 
very doorway of his dominions. 

Instantly the Spanish king prepared to crush this 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 105 

new enemy. To extirpate and drive back the western 
settlers, he instructed his Governor of Louisiana and 
West Florida, Don Estephan Miro, to arm the Indians, 
and incite them to a war of extermination against the 
colonists : and, to discourage further settlements beyond 
the mountains, he announced to the United States Gov- 
ernment that under no circumstances would he consent 
to the navigation of the Mississippi by the Americans. 
Thus shut out from the markets of the world, no sane 
Virginian or New-Englander would think of erecting 
his domicile beyond the Alleghanies. So Charles III 
thought, and he was sanguine that twenty thousand 
native warriors, armed and backed by Spain, would 
make short work with the handful of heretics who 
had already ventured beyond the mountains. 

But Charles III had overestimated the strength of 
his allies, and underestimated that of his enemies. Of 
these twenty thousand warriors, seven thousand were 
Choctaws and Chickasaws, who had been won over to 
the Americans through the friendship for Robertson of 
Piomingo, the Chickasaw king ; and nearly three thou- 
sand were Cherokees, who were paralyzed by the pacific 
disposition of Old Tassel, and a dread of John Sevier's 
rifles. The remainder of this savage force, namely, six 
thousand Creeks, two thousand Seminoles, and two 
thousand Chickamaugas, were, indeed, pledged to the 
Spanish king by a treaty between Alexander McGilliv- 
ray, the Creek chief, and Governor Miro, made at 

Pensacola, on June 1, 1784 ; but the Creek chief had 
n 



106 JOHN SEVIER. 

ever since feared to meet, without the aid of the other 
tribes, the combined forces of the settlers. This aid, 
however, he had hoped, and still did hope, to get ; and 
meanwhile he was showing his zeal for Spain, and keep- 
ing alive the spirit of his warriors, by constant raids 
upon Robertson, who, at one time, with but seventy 
men, and with never more than a thousand, had for 
seven years held at bay, or beaten off, these nations of 
savages. 

And the Kentucky settlements, which in 1779 had 
numbered only one hundred and seventy-six white 
men, now (1787) contained a population of not less than 
thirty thousand souls, and a like number were on the 
Holston and Watauga under Sevier, and fully seven 
thousand on the Cumberland under Robertson. Al- 
lowing for the usual excess of men over women in all 
new settlements, this population of nearly seventy thou- 
sand would have furnished at least eighteen thousand rifle- 
men, not a man of whom would passively submit to be 
exterminated. They were more than a match for double 
their number of Indians, and consequently the design 
of the Spanish king was impossible of execution. 

These facts came at last to the knowledge of Charles 
III, and then his policy underwent a sudden change 
from one of hostility to one of conciliation and broth- 
erly kindness. He sought no longer to exterminate the 
settlers, but to get them under his control, by inducing 
them — if he could not otherwise do it — to establish an 
independent republic between the Alleghanies and the 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 107 

Mississippi, under his protection. This would dismem- 
ber and weaken the Union, and prevent it ever becom- 
ing a power great enough to endanger the safety of 
his North American possessions.^ It would also close 
forever the western half of this continent to the en- 
trance of Anglo-Saxon civilization. 

This separation the Spanish king proposed to bring 
about by showing the colonists the vast advantages 
they would derive from a Spanish alliance, and by 
fostering the dissatisfaction which was fast growing up 
among them toward the seaboard States. To this end 
he relaxed the rigor of his embargo upon the Missis- 
sippi, though he exacted such duties on passing and 
landed produce as would leave all profits in the hands 
of his underlings. Many of the settlers availed them- 
selves of this commercial opening, and tested the fact 
that tobacco, worth at home but two dollars per hun- 
dred, found a ready market in New Orleans at nine 
dollars and fifty cents ; and they saw that with such 
returns their smiling Kentucky and Cumberland valleys, 
where the "fragrant weed" lay rotting on the ground, 
would speedily be transformed into a vast El Dorado — 
aland of the "golden leaf" — if only the onerous duty 
were once removed. 

Upon this the Western people demanded of Con- 
gress that it should effect such a treaty with Spain as 
would give them free trade upon the Mississippi. In 
answer to this, Congress replied: "We have negotiated 
to that end since 1784 ; but the Spaniards refuse to 



108 JOHN SEVIER. 

listen to any proposals for the opening of that river. 
Its free navigation was ceded to ns by Great Britain, 
and you have a natural right to it ; but it can not be 
had without a war with Spain, and for that the coun- 
try is not now prepared. That point ignored, we can 
form an advantageous treaty with that nation — one 
that will revive trade, bring in gold and silver, and 
thus relieve our national embarrassments. Therefore, 
the navigation had better be waived for the moment. 
It is not needed by you at present. You are too few 
in numbers to require a foreign commerce ; and you 
have no more surplus coin and tobacco than can be 
consumed by incoming settlers. When you and the 
country are stronger, we shall be able to demand and 
enforce the free navigation of that river." 

The above is, in effect, what the settlers gathered 
as to the acts and intentions of Congress, and on the 
heels of it came the report that John Jay, the U. S. Sec- 
retary of State, had recommended to that body, in secret 
session, the making of a treaty with Spain, which 
would concede her right to control the Mississippi, 
and close it for twenty years to American commerce ; 
and that seven of the States — only nine being required 
to ratify a treaty — had voted in favor of this con- 
cession. 

The tidings excited intense indignation throughout 
the Western country. Never before had such excite- 
ment been known there, not even when the savages 
were pouring in resistless numbers upon the well-nigh 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 109 

defenseless settlements. The settlers saw themselves 
shut out from the civilized world, and left at the 
mercy of a foreign nation. With their barns and 
warehouses filled to overflowing, they had no outlet 
for their produce. They had a natural right to a 
route to the sea, and they were now to be denied 
that right, simply to fill the already plethoric pockets 
of the Eastern traders. The wrongs which had brought 
about the revolt from Great Britain were not near so 
great nor half so galling as these. Was it for this 
they had fought the Indians, and made in the wilder- 
ness a highway for freedom — to be themselves bound 
hand and foot, at the will of the ruffled-shirted gentry 
on the seaboard ? Such injustice could not and would 
not be borne. They would throw off their allegiance 
to the Central Government, set up a government of 
their own, and, if need were, with their eighteen or 
twenty thousand riflemen, they would force a passage 
to the sea. This was the language now heard in every 
hut and every hamlet from the Watauga to the most 
remote district in Kentucky. 

And this language was pleasant to the ears of the 
Spanish king. It was to arouse just this feeling that 
he had instructed his envoy, Gardoqui, to decline to 
open to the United States the navigation of the Mis- 
sissippi ; and quickly he seized upon this opportunity 
to sever the Western people from the Union. Through 
Miro he now said to Robertson and other of the West- 
ern leaders: "We will freely grant to you what we 



HO JOHN SEVIER. 

have refused to the trading aristocracy on the Atlantic. 
We will admit your produce to our ports free from all 
duty, and give you in perpetuity unobstructed naviga- 
tion of the Mississippi. We will call off, and, if need 
be, drive off, the Indians from harassing you. We will 
release to you all claim that we have to the territory 
which you occupy ; and we will stand by you like lov- 
ing brothers, with sword and bayonet and heavy artil- 
lery, if you will but cut loose from the Eastern shop- 
keepers, and set up for yourselves a free and independ- 
ent republic in this glorious valley of the Mississippi." 
The above is the purport of the declaration of the 
Spanish king, and we may easily imagine how it was 
generally received among a people bleeding from the 
wounds of an interminable savage warfare, and smart- 
ing under what seemed to them the unmerited neglect 
and indifference of the General Government. Robert- 
son had been in frequent correspondence with Miro 
since 1782. He had reason to consider him a high- 
toned, kind-hearted Castilian gentleman, who resorted 
to the employment of savages, not from cruelty, but 
from state policy ; and he had sought to conciliate his 
good-will, and mitigate the savage warfare upon his 
settlement, by giving the name of "Miro District" to 
the Cumberland region when, in 1783, it was set off 
from Watauga by North Carolina. The compliment 
had won for Robertson the decided friendship of the 
Spanish governor, though it did not induce him to 
obstruct the policy of his sovereign ; and now, when 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. m 

that policy had undergone a radical change, Robertson 
was the first to whom it was communicated. By Rob- 
ertson these proposals were at once forwarded to Sevier, 
and they came to Sevier just at the time when Governor 
Caswell apprised him that the North Carolina Legisla- 
ture had swept both himself and his government from 
political existence. 

I have not been able to discover Sevier's answer to 
these Spanish overtures. His subsequent course shows 
that it must have been a decided refusal ; but the fol- 
lowing extract from a letter to him from the heroic 
Elijah Clarke, of Georgia, makes it evident that he was 
deeply interested in the project of opening the Missis- 
sippi to Western commerce. Clarke had been Sevier's 
devoted friend ever since the time when, in 1780, he 
had found a refuge at his house on the Nolichucky, 
and now under date of Augusta, February 11, 1787, 
he wrote to him as follows : 

" Dear Sir : I received your favor by Major El- 
holm, who informed me of your health. Assure your- 
self of my ardent friendship, and that you have the 
approbation of all our citizens, and their well wishes 
for your prosperity. We are sensible of what benefit 
the friendship of yourself and the people of your 
State will be to Georgia ; and we hope you will never 
join North Carolina more. Open a land-office as speedily 
as possible, and it can not fail but you will prosper as a 
people : this is the opinion current among us. 



112 JOHN SEVIER. 

" I have considered greatly on that part of your letter 
which alludes to politics in the Western country. It 
made me serious ; and, as seven States have agreed to 
give up the navigation, it is my friendly advice that you 
do watch with every possible attention, for fear that two 
more States should agree. I only observe to you that 
the Southern States will ever be your friends. I know 
that you must have the navigation of the Mississippi. 
You have spirit and right : it is almost every man's 
opinion that a rumor" (an outbreak) "will rise in that 
country. I hope to see that part myself yet. Adieu. 
Heaven attend you and every friend ! " 

This letter of General Clarke expresses the nearly 
unanimous sentiment of the people of Franklin at this 
period in regard to a reversion to North Carolina. They 
were prepared to resist it, "even unto blood." This is 
shown by the following extract from a letter of Judge 
Campbell, the recently appointed Chief-Justice of the 
North Carolina Superior Court, to Governor Caswell, 
dated March 18, 1787. He said : " The sword of justice 
and vengeance will, I believe, be shortly drawn against 
those of this country who attempt to overturn and vio- 
late the laws and government of Franklin, and God only 
knows what will be the event ! If any blood is spilt on 
this occasion, the act for partial elections from your 
country " (which had placed Tipton in the North Caro- 
lina Senate) "will be the cause of it ; and, I am bold to 
sav, the author of that act was the author of much evil. 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. H3 

That your Excellency may not be in the dark about the 
spirit and determination of a great majority of these 
people, in supporting, maintaining, and defending their 
beloved Franklin, I shall give you a brief and concise 
detail of what has transpired here since the fate of our 
memorial and personal application to the Legislature of 
North Carolina has been announced to us. Pains have 
been taken to collect the wishes of the people respecting 
a reversion ; many who were formerly lukewarm are 
now flaming patriots for Franklin. Those who were real 
Franklinites are now burning with enthusiastic zeal. 
They say that North Carolina has not treated us like a 
parent, but like a step-dame. She means to sacrifice us 
to the Indian savages ; she has broken our old officers, 
under whom we fought and bled, and placed over us 
many men unskilled in military achievements, and who 
were none of our choice. . . . You must not conclude 
we are altogether unanimous ; but I do assure you that 
a very great majority, perhaps nineteen twentieths, seem 
determined to persevere at all hazards." 

A letter from Hutchings, the newly appointed North 
Carolina colonel of Hawkins County, to Governor Cas- 
well, at about the same date, was to the same purport ; 
and he added : " There are many plans and matters agi- 
tated by them which seem to have a tendency to dissolve 
the Federal bands. Several letters I have in my pos- 
session can be spoken of in no other way." 

From the above it would seem to be clear that the 
people of Franklin had now resolved on armed resistance 



114 JOHN SEVIER. 

to North Carolina ; and that among them was heard a 
subdued talk of throwing off allegiance to the Federal 
Union. It is not to be supposed that the Spanish pro- 
posals were as yet generally known ; but they were 
known to Sevier, and therefore he had before his view 
the entire situation — the whole people west of the Alle- 
ghanies ripe for revolt, and Spain pledged to assist them 
in asserting and maintaining their independence of the 
General Government. Once before Sevier had gone with 
the current, and for doing so he has been styled — by 
those not attentive to his entire career — a demagogue, 
and accused of personal ambition. What will they say 
of him if he shall now resist the tide, refuse to lift a 
hand against North Carolina or the Federal authority, 
and, with the loss of all he has, and at the hazard of his 
life and liberty, not only save his own people from sav- 
age assault, but hold the entire West to its moorings in 
the Union ? To appreciate what he did, it is necessary 
: to consider what he might have done, had he not been 
as true a man and as pure a patriot as can be found in 
American history. 

The whole West, as has been shown, was ripe for 
rebellion. Under Isaac Shelby, Benjamin Logan, and 
George Eogers Clark, five thousand men could have been 
raised in Kentucky ; three thousand more could have 
been recruited by Arthur Campbell in Southwest Vir- 
ginia ; at least one thousand by Eobertson on the Cum- 
berland ; and Elijah Clarke, who had said, " I hope to 
see that part myself yet," could have been counted on to 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 115 

lead five thousand over the mountains from Northern 
Georgia. All of these men, except George Eogers Clark, 
had served under or with Sevier ; all were devotedly at- 
tached to him ; and all, knowing his military genius, 
would gladly have accepted his leadership. Campbell 
and Eobertson had already proposed to join their fortunes 
with those of Franklin, and Sevier had only to speak the 
word to rally the others to his side, and then, counting 
his own troops, he would have been at the head of not less 
than twenty thousand of the best fighting men in the 
country. Opposed to him would have been the wretched 
" sand-hillers " of North Carolina, with not one compe- 
tent leader, and perhaps the General Government — I say 
"perhaps," because the old Confederation had then 
neither strength nor vitality. It was at the point of dis- 
solution, and its representatives in Congress were at that 
very moment debating the new Constitution, which was 
not adopted by all the States till more than two years 
afterward. Moreover, a majority of that body were 
from the Eastern and Northern States, where the general 
opinion was that the Union already covered too much 
territory. They would have been content with the 
Alleghanies as its western boundary, and it is not prob- 
able that they would have submitted to the expense of 
maintaining a large armed force for the subjugation of 
the West. 

This was the outlook to Sevier if the Spanish pro- 
posals were not accepted. But, if even a temporary 
alliance had been formed with Spain, this army of 



116 JOHN SEVIER. 

twenty thousand men would have been augmented by 
twenty thousand Indian warriors, who had for "'Chucky 
Jack " a superstitious veneration, and every one of whom 
would have followed him, believing that in doing so he 
was under supernatural protection. With this alliance 
the Mississippi would have been opened, a trade estab- 
lished upon it that would soon have flooded the West 
with gold and silver, and the murderous tomahawk 
would have been so deeply buried that it might never 
again be brandished above the white man's dwelling. 
And, in alliance with Spain, Sevier could have counted 
with absolute certainty upon no interference from the 
Central Government ; for had it not already for three 
years borne with wrong, indignity, and savage outrage 
upon its Western citizens, rather than provoke a war 
with the Spaniards ; and did it not pursue the same 
policy for seven years longer ? 

Each of these courses was now open to Sevier, and 
either of them would unquestionably have resulted in the 
independence of the West. Is it not within bounds to 
say that such another opportunity for what is termed 
"great achievement" has seldom been presented to any 
ambitious leader in this country ? 

On the other hand, what would have been the result 
had Sevier given up his command, and submitted to the 
government of North Carolina ? Three thousand well- 
deserving people, who, relying on the faith of North 
Carolina, had settled on the Indian lands, would have 
been at once driven from their homes, or else outlawed 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 117 

and delivered over, in express terms, by the treaty of 
Hopewell, to the relentless fury of untamed savages ; 
and more than this, the whole Watauga country would 
have been stripped of its tried military leaders, and ex- 
posed, without so much as a competent captain of militia, 
to the impending attack from McGillivray and his twelve 
thousand warriors. This is not too much to say, for 
Evan Shelby, though an old and tried soldier, was now 
feeble with age, and incompetent to lead in such an 
emergency ; and Tipton and Martin, the only colonels 
worthy of mention, had not the confidence of the people. 
They were willing enough to lead, but, as very soon ap- 
peared, the "tall Watauga boys" were not willing to fol- 
low them. Thus the salvation of Watauga, and the 
safety of every man, woman, and child in its scattered 
settlements, rested upon Sevier, and demanded that he 
should, at least for a time, retain control of its military 
organization. 

These were the facts which of necessity Sevier had 
before him for the thirty days during which he had 
his future course under consideration. There is no 
word from him to indicate his decision ; but the scanty 
records which exist, and his subsequent action, clearly 
show it to have been as follows : 

He would form no alliance with Spain. Light has no 
affinity with darkness, and American freedom would not 
ally itself with Spanish tyranny. 

He would not aid or countenance any effort to dis- 
member the Union. He had fought to establish it, 
12 



118 JOHN SEVIER. 

and he would again risk his life for its preserva- 
tion. 

He would not lift his hand against one of his country- 
men, nor would he resist by force the arbitrary acts of 
North Carolina. He would conciliate that State, if pos- 
sible, by moderate measures, and a right presentation of 
facts, and in all honorable ways would endeavor to pre- 
serve peace between the two peoples. 

But he would, at all hazards, defend against Indian 
attack the Watauga settlers and the people who were 
outlawed by the treaty of Hopewell. The better to do 
this, he would retain in force the civil and military 
organization of Franklin for the single year that re- 
mained of his term as Governor. That period having 
expired, he would no longer be eligible to that office ; 
but then, if danger from the Indians continued, he 
would head the militia as their volunteer leader. By 
this course he might come into collision with North 
Carolina, and be subjected to a charge of high treason ; 
but this was a personal risk, involving only his own life 
and liberty, and he would assume it to protect the 
Watauga people. 

Having resolved upon this course, Sevier, on the 6th 
of April, 1787, addressed the following letter to Gov- 
ernor Caswell : 

"Sir : I was favored with yours of 23d February, in 
which your Excellency was pleased to favor me with a 
detail of the proceedings of your Assembly. I must own 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 119 

I had the fullest hopes and confidence that that body, 
before their rising, would have either agreed to the sepa- 
ration, on honorable principles and stipulations, or other- 
wise endeavored to have reunited us upon such terms as 
might have been lasting and friendly ; but I find myself 
and country entirely deceived ; and, if your Assembly 
have thought their measures would answer such an end, 
they are equally disappointed. But I firmly believe, 
had proper measures been adopted, an union, in some 
measure, or perhaps fully, would have taken place. 

"We shall continue to act as independent, and would 
rather suffer death in all its various and frightful shapes 
than conform to anything that is disgraceful." 

To . this letter Caswell replied promptly, and in a 
most kindly spirit, urging upon Sevier patience and 
moderation. In an indirect way he censured the course 
of the Legislature by saying : " I can not account for the 
conduct of our Assembly in their last session. I know 
some of the gentlemen's sentiments did not coincide with 
my own. . . . My ideas are that Nature, in this forma- 
tion of the hills between us, and directing the courses of 
waters so differently, had not in view the inhabitants on 
either side being long subject to the same laws and gov- 
ernment. I conclude by recommending unanimity among 
you, as the only means by which your government ever 
can obtain energy, even when the separation is effected 
by consent of North Carolina." 



120 JOHN SEVIER. 

Six months prior to the date we are considering, 
Major Elholm had written to the Governor of Georgia, 
"Mr. John Tipton's party seems deep in decline at pres- 
ent." It was so, and so would have continued — a mere 
corporal's guard, and not a party — and it would speedily 
have died a natural death, but for the passage of the law 
beheading the Franklin government. That act was no 
sooner passed than Tipton himself received new life, and, 
waiting only for the commissions for the new officials, 
hurried over the mountains into Franklin, proclaiming 
everywhere the overthrow of Sevier and his government. 
He arrived some weeks before the official dispatches, and 
at first the people listened with incredulous ears to his 
tidings, but when they saw courts being organized under 
the new justices, and placards posted at every cross-roads 
calling upon the militia to muster under the new officers, 
they believed his report, and the general rage and con- 
sternation became unbounded. " Does North Carolina," 
they asked, "intend to deliver us, bound hand and foot, 
to our enemies ? In the face of a great Indian war, will 
she depose our tried leaders, and set over us officers who 
know nothing of savage warfare ? And what kind of 
law or equity can we get from these irresponsible men 
whom she has made our civil justices ? " Only in the 
two older counties could men be found who would ac- 
cept the new appointments, and even there the feeling 
ran so high that, had it not been for the pacific counsels 
of Sevier, violence might have been done to the new 
officials. 



THE CHOSEN" ALTERNATIVE. 121 

But this storm of indignation did not intimidate 
Tipton. Turmoil was his natural element, and he was 
of so reckless a courage that, right or wrong, with five 
men at his back, he would anywhere have met a thou- 
sand. He went on delivering the commissions, organiz- 
ing justices' courts in log-cabins and cross-road school- 
houses, and forming such skeletons of military companies 
as could be got together from among his own and Hous- 
ton's adherents, who now, according to Judge Campbell, 
numbered not more than five men in a hundred. This 
slender battalion, it would seem, could not be dangerous, 
and need not be feared by a majority, large, compact, 
and powerful ; and yet there was danger in it, for behind 
this ribald, disorderly crew, so out at the elbows and 
out of character, was that silent, omnipotent force, 
which we call Law, and which, whoever resists, is him- 
self at once an outlaw and a criminal. 

Though he could not at the time muster a hundred 
men, Tipton knew his legal strength, and he determined 
upon such aggressive measures as would overturn Sevier's 
pacific policy, and bring on such a collision with North 
Carolina as, he thought, would be fatal to the new gov- 
ernment. He had organized a court for the county of 
"Washington at a log-house on Buffalo Creek, about ten 
miles from Jonesboro, and, procuring a warrant from 
this court, he collected a body of some fifty armed men, 
and descended one day in early March upon the regular 
tribunal, then in session at the county-seat. The rec- 
ords of the court being refused him, he proceeded to 



122 JOHN SEVIER. 

drive the judge, jury, lawyers, and spectators out-of- 
doors, and then bore away the records in triumph to his 
own court on Buffalo Creek. James Sevier, who when 
a boy not yet sixteen had fought by his father's side at 
King's Mountain, was the clerk of the regular court, 
and, now promptly gathering a number of men, he de- 
scended in turn upon Tipton's court, regained the capt- 
ured papers, and bore them away to his own dwelling. 
Here, a few nights later, he was surrounded by a still 
stronger party, the papers forced from him, and again 
borne away by Tipton. But young Sevier was not to be 
thus overcome by what he deemed a party of lawless 
ragamuffins. He collected another body of men, again 
recaptured the papers, and on this occasion hid them in 
a cave, where they might be as secure as the old charter 
in the famous oak of Hartford. "However," says Hay- 
wood, "in these removals many valuable papers were 
lost, and at later periods, for want of them, some estates 
of great value have also been lost." Some of these 
papers came subsequently into the possession of Dr. 
Ramsey, and he reports that they bore evidence of hav- 
ing at some time been in very damp quarters. No blood 
was shed in these various collisions, for on each occasion 
only the attacking party was armed. 

These disorderly proceedings increased the public ex- 
citement, and the Franklin Legislature, then in session, 
sought to put a stop to them by passing an act to punish 
by imprisonment every person who should attempt to 
exercise the authority of a justice of the peace, or per- 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 123 

form the duties of any other civil office, by commission 
from the State of North Carolina. Sevier refused to 
sanction this law, and it consequently was inoperative ; 
but it required all his remarkable powers of conciliation 
to prevent the people resorting to summary and illegal 
measures, that would inevitably have resulted in blood- 
shed. 

This first crop of dragon's teeth, which sprang 
from the hostile legislation of North Carolina, warned 
Sevier that something must at once be done to stop the 
evil, and secure against further profanation the recog- 
nized courts of justice. Evan Shelby had been ap- 
pointed by the old State brigadier-general of the entire 
western militia, and this, though as yet he was in com- 
mand of only skeleton regiments, made him the highest 
representative of North Carolina in the Territory. In 
anticipation of the hostile feeling which the obnoxious 
act of his Legislature would arouse in Franklin, Governor 
Caswell had written Shelby to exert every influence to 
pacify the people, and now Sevier applied to him for his 
co-operation in some feasible measure calculated to re- 
store the public tranquillity. The result was an agree- 
ment which in effect established two governments in 
Franklin ; and this shows that Sevier never intended to 
sustain his authority by force, and only sought to retain 
power until the present danger from the Indians should 
be over. The agreement, as reported by Evan Shelby to 
Governor Caswell, was as follows : 



124 JOHN SEVIER. 

"At a conference held at the house of Samuel Smith, 
Esquire, on the 20th day of March, 1787, between the 
Honorable Evan Shelby, Esquire, and sundry officers, of 
the one part, and the Honorable John Sevier, and sun- 
dry officers, of the other part : Whereas, disputes have 
arisen concerning the propriety and legality of the State 
of Franklin, and the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the 
State of North Carolina over the said State, and the 
people residing therein : the contending parties, from 
the regard they have to peace, tranquillity, and good de- 
corum in the western country, do agree and recommend 
as follows : 

"First. That the courts of justice do not proceed to 
transact any business in their judicial departments, ex- 
cept the trial of criminals, the proving of wills, deeds, 
bills of sale, and such like conveyances ; the issuing of 
attachments, writs, and any legal process, so as to pro- 
cure bail, but not to enter into any final determina- 
tion of the suits, except the parties are mutually agreed 
thereto. 

"Secondly. That the inhabitants residing within the 
limits of the disputed territory are at full liberty and 
discretion to pay their public taxes to either the State 
of North Carolina or the State of Franklin. 

" Tliirdly. That this agreement and recommendation 
continue until the next annual sitting of the General 
Assembly of North Carolina, to be held in November 
next, and not longer. It is further agreed, that if any 
person guilty of felony be committed by any North Caro- 



THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE. 125 

lina justice of the peace, that such person or persons 
may and shall be received by the Franklin sheriff or 
gaoler of Washington, and proceeded against in the 
same manner as if the same had been committed by 
and from any such authority from under the State of 
Franklin. It is also recommended that the aforesaid 
people do take such modes and regulations, and set forth 
their grievances, if any they have, and solicit North 
Carolina, at their next annual meeting of the General 
Assembly, to complete the separation, if thought neces- 
sary by the people of the western country, as to them 
may appear most expedient, and give their members and 
representatives such instructions as may be thought most 
conducive to the interest of our western world, by a 
majority of the same, either to be a separate State from 
that of North Carolina, or to be citizens of the State of 
North Carolina. 

"Signed and agreed, on behalf of each party, this 
day and year above written. 

"Evan Shelby, 
"John Sevier." 

Sevier had now chained the winds, and all would be 
well if they did not slip from his grasp, rush violently 
together, and he be caught in the whirlwind. 



CHAPTER VII. 

QUAKEK GUNS. 

Two years had now passed since Sevier assumed the 
reins of the Franklin government, and during the whole 
of that period the country under his control had expe- 
rienced unbroken prosperity. Education had been fos- 
tered, law had been duly administered, and crime had 
been a thing almost unknown. Tradition and the rec- 
ords of Washington County — so far as they have been 
preserved — report not a single capital crime to have been 
committed in the district. Money had not been abun- 
dant, but the thirty thousand dollars of silver coined by 
Charles Robertson had been enough for ordinary ex- 
changes, and, peltry being still receivable by the collect- 
ors, every man had a ready means of paying his taxes. 
These had been light — "one shilling the poll, and six- 
pence per hundred acres " — and the best of agricultural 
land was obtainable at "forty shillings per hundred ; the 
first ten shillings in hand, and two years' credit for the 
other thirty shillings." Thus every man had within his 
reach a home and a competence ; and, though a heavy 



QUAKER GUNS. 127 

war-cloud hung continually over the border, he could 
sit " under his own vine and fig-tree" without fear, see- 
ing that Nolichucky Jack and his four thousand rifle- 
men stood guard over his dwelling. So strong was this 
feeling of security that settlements had been extended 
on the lands south of the French Broad — acquired by 
the treaty between Sevier and the Cherokees — to within 
nine miles of the Indian towns on the Tellico. It was 
a singular spectacle, this, of a whole people living in 
scattered settlements, and beleaguered on three sides by 
savage foes, yet resting without a thought of danger, 
because of the moral power of one man, whose single 
name held harmless a swarm of warlike enemies. But 
this reign of peace and law and fraternal feeling was now 
to be for a time interrupted by the machinations of a few 
reckless and ambitious men, who, with no power or in- 
fluence of their own, were rendered potent for evil by 
the "mother-State," which had never expended a dollar 
nor provided a soldier for the aid or protection of its 
western citizens. 

For a time the two co-ordinate governments moved 
along, side by side, without jar or collision. The North 
Carolina sheriff lodged his prisoners in the Franklin jail 
on free straw and at free rations ; the rival justices held 
court simultaneously at opposite ends of the little log 
school-houses, and officiated conjointly at the weddings 
of such young men and women as desired to hold to- 
gether, whichsoever administration should fall to pieces ; 
and thus it happened that many a man might be met in 



128 JOHN SEVIER. 

after-years who, with never but one wife, had yet been 
twice married. The lion and the lamb had, in truth, 
come to lie down together, though, unfortunately for 
the lamb, the little child whose office it is to muzzle the 
larger beast was absent on this occasion. 

This state of things could not have continued for a 
day had not these people cherished a high respect for 
law and order, and a genuine regard for one another. 
As it was, it lasted fully forty days, and until the parti- 
sans of North Carolina saw that only through "much 
tribulation " could the old State recover her lost domin- 
ion, and — what was of more consequence to them — they 
achieve the power they so much coveted. The desire 
among the people for separation was well-nigh unani- 
mous ; if the present good feeling continued, it would 
become altogether so, and the Governor of North Caro- 
lina had distinctly said that unanimity would secure the 
wished-for independence of Franklin. Therefore, this 
harmony must be broken, the dregs of society stirred up 
to the surface, and discord introduced into a peaceful 
community, if Tipton and his boon companions did not 
wish to be reduced to political nonentity. A small stone 
cast into a placid pool will ruffle the waters to its far- 
thermost extremity ; so now a few spoken words set in 
commotion the entire country around Watauga. These 
words were : "By what authority did John Sevier and 
General Shelby make that anomalous compact ? Can a 
man serve two masters ? If not, then choose ye : ' If 
the Lord be God, follow him ; if Baal, then follow him.' " 



QUAKER GUNS. 129 

The words spread, and thus was that modern inven- 
tion, party politics, introduced among this primitive peo- 
ple. Soon at every cross-road gathering was heard discus- 
sion, and then wrangling, and then shouts for North Caro- 
lina and for Franklin. The partisans of the new State 
continued very largely in the majority, but their leader 
had enjoined upon them peace, forbearance, and brotherly 
kindness ; and, his Quaker policy being well understood, 
the factious minority were emboldened to acts of vio- 
lence. Court-houses were again rifled, and peaceable 
meetings broken up by the disorderly adherents of Tip- 
ton, who in some cases resorted to "knock-down argu- 
ments." This was too much for the unregenerate man- 
hood of such of Sevier's friends as had not pondered 
upon the thirty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of St. 
Matthew's gospel. They returned blow for blow, and 
thus an animosity was engendered which, in some fami- 
lies, lasted till far into another century. No blood was 
shed in these encounters, because, as if by tacit consent, 
no deadly weapons were employed ; but a reign of vio- 
lence was inaugurated which could not safely continue 
unchecked in any community. 

Meanwhile, Evan Shelby was resting in patriarchal 
ease at his cattle-farm of King's Meadows, utterly igno- 
rant of the unbrotherly dissension which was going on 
only forty or fifty miles to the south of him. At last 
word was brought him of this deplorable state of things 
by the North Carolina colonels — Tipton, Maxwell, and 
Hutchings — who had been the active agents in raising 

13 



130 JOHN SEVIER. 

this storm of disorder. The story lost nothing in their 
telling, and the old veteran listened aghast to the tale of 
riot and confusion. He was a cast-iron man, trained in 
a school of rigid discipline, and for forty years had been 
accustomed to the exercise of military authority. He 
saw that this disorder must be put down, or there was an 
end to all government. But how could it be put down, 
the discontent so general, and he with only a corporal's 
guard for an army ? To this answered Tipton and the 
other colonels : " Call upon North Carolina for a thou- 
sand men. That force, backed by the moral power of 
law, will overawe all opposition to the old State. Be- 
sides, Sevier has announced that he will not resist North 
Carolina by force, and his followers will not fight if he 
refuses to lead them." 

In accord with this suggestion, General Shelby wrote 
to Governor Caswell, saying, among other things : "The 
matter is truly alarming, and it is beyond a doubt with 
me that hostilities will in a short time commence. I 
therefore think it highly necessary that one thousand 
troops, at least, be sent, as that number might have a 
good effect ; for, should we have that number under the 
sanction of government, there is no doubt with me 
they" (the disaffected) "would immediately give way." 

With General Shelby at this time was Anthony Bled- 
soe, the right-hand man of Eobertson, and one of the 
most influential men in the western country. He had 
been one of the one hundred who rushed to the rescue 
when, eleven years before, Sevier, with but forty men, 



QUAKER GUNS. 131 

had withstood the assault of the Cherokee king on the 
fort at Watauga ; and he was now in Franklin to solicit 
Sevier s aid against an expected raid of the same Chero- 
kees upon the settlements along the Cumberland. Sevier 
had promised him that, if the raid should be attempted, 
he would at once march a strong body of men into 
the Cherokee country, and chastise the savages into 
reason ; and Bledsoe was naturally unwilling to see 
North Carolina array an armed force against so loyal a 
friend and true a patriot. By Shelby's permission he 
wrote the Governor, sending the letter by his messenger. 
He said : "Might I be permitted to request your Excel- 
lency's addressing these people, and advising them of the 
necessity and advantage of returning to their duty once 
more, and the danger and evil consequences of their per- 
sisting in the attempt of supporting an independence ? 
I do assure your Excellency that it is my opinion your 
address on that occasion would have a very good effect 
on the principal people in the revolted party." 

The Governor received these letters on May 19, 1787, 
at once laid them before his Council, and on the 21st he 
replied to General Shelby as follows: "I have stated 
the situation of your country to the Council, and laid 
your letter before them. . . . They think it would be 
very imprudent to add to the dissatisfaction of the peo- 
ple there by showing a wish to encourage the shedding 
of blood, as thereby a civil war would eventually be 
brought on, which ought at all times to be avoided, if 
possible ; but more especially at the present, as we have 



132 JOHN SEVIER. 

great reason to apprehend a general Indian war. If the 
Northern and Southern tribes should unite with your 
Cherokee neighbors, you will stand in need, they think, 
of all your force, and therefore recommend unanimity 
among you, if it can by any means be effected, as you 
thereby will be much more able to defend yourselves 
than you possibly can be when divided, let alone the 
circumstance of cutting each other's throats. Besides 
these [considerations], it would be impracticable to raise 
an armed force here to be sent to your assistance at this 
time, if we were ever so much disposed thereto, for the 
following reasons : The people in general are now en- 
gaged in their farming business, and, if brought out, 
would very reluctantly march ; there is no money in the 
treasury to defray the expenses of such as might be 
called out ; nor, in fact, have we arms or ammuni- 
tion." 

This letter affords proof that, if Sevier, even single- 
handed, had then chosen to resist North Carolina by 
armed force, he would have been successful. There 
were those about him who well understood this weakness 
of North Carolina, and who urged him to put down the 
malcontents by a strong arm, feeling sure that the 
"mother-State" could offer no resistance. There were 
others who advised the same course, but who hoped 
North Carolina would resist, as in that case the entire 
West would rally around Sevier, with the result of secur- 
ing the independence of the trans- Alleghany region and 
the opening of the Mississippi, not through a league with 



QUAKER GUNS. 133 

Spain, but in defiance of that power, which they would 
speedily drive into the Gulf of Mexico. There can be no 
question that a large majority of the people of Franklin 
entertained at this time the one or the other of these views, 
and now urged Sevier to extinguish by force all resist- 
ance to his authority. The pressure upon him must 
have been great, but he stood firmly by his original reso- 
lution. "I will," he said in effect, "constrain no man 
to maintain the Franklin government. If the people 
support it, it will stand ; if they do not support it, it 
will fall. Not in any case will I consent to establish it 
by shedding the blood of my neighbors or my country- 
men." 

But, though he refused to resort to force, Sevier again 
attempted to bring about a peaceable settlement with 
North Carolina. All his direct overtures had failed, and 
he now sought the intervention of Georgia, with whose 
Governor he had been in frequent correspondence in re- 
lation to the expected Indian uprising, and where he had 
many friends among the best citizens. Among these, 
the Hon. William Downs had just written him: "I 
have had the opinion of a number of the greatest poli- 
ticians in our State respecting yours, who give it as their 
opinion that it will support itself without a doubt ; and, 
from what I can understand, they would give every 
assistance in their power." Of this feeling Sevier now 
proceeded to avail himself by dispatching Major Elholm 
to the Governor to solicit his good offices in bringing 
about an adjustment of the difficulty with North Caro- 



134: JOHN SEVIER, 

lina. He closes his letter to him with this paragraph : 
" Permit us to inform you that it is not the sword that 
can intimidate us. The rectitude of our cause, our local 
situation, together with the spirit and enterprise of our 
countrymen in such a cause, would inflame us with con- 
fidence and hopes of success. But when we call to mind 
the great number of internal and external enemies to 
American Independence, it makes us shudder at the very 
idea of such an incurable evil, not knowing where the 
disorder might lead, or what part of the body politic the 
ulcer might at last infect." 

Both the Governor and the Legislature of Georgia 
took prompt measures to further Sevier's views ; but, be- 
fore any result could be arrived at, a general revolution 
occurred in the sentiment of the Franklin people, which, 
considering the bitter feeling previously existing toward 
North Carolina, seems altogether surprising. It was 
brought about by a few kindly words from a man in 
whom the Franklin people had confidence ; and it illus- 
trates the fact that the "soft answer which turneth away 
wrath" is far more potent with reasoning men than 
swords and bayonets and brass artillery. These few 
words were contained in a printed sheet, which, in com- 
pliance with Anthony Bledsoe's suggestion, Governor 
Caswell addressed to the inhabitants of the western 
counties. The document accomplished such important 
results that its principal portions are here given : 

The Governor addressed the people as "friends and 
fellow-citizens," and then went on to say that a dis- 



QUAKER GUNS. 135 

orderly state of affairs had been reported to him, in 
consequence of which "sundry good citizens have been 
induced to signify to Government their apprehension of 
being obliged to have recourse to arms. And notwith- 
standing the behavior of some of the refractory might 
justify such a measure, yet I am willing to hope that, 
upon reflection and due consideration of the conse- 
quences which must ensue in case of the shedding of 
blood among yourselves, a moment's thought must 
evince the necessity of mutual friendship and the ties 
of brotherly love being strongly cemented among you. 
You have, or shortly will have, if my information is 
well grounded, enemies to deal with which will require 
this cement to be more strong than ever ; your whole 
force may become necessary to be exerted against the 
common enemy, as it is more than probable they may be 
assisted by the subjects of some foreign power — if not 
publicly, they will furnish arms and ammunition to the 
Indian tribes, to be made use of against you ; and when 
your neighbors are so supported and assisted by the 
Northern and Southern Indians, if you should be so un- 
happy as to be divided among yourselves, what may you 
not then apprehend and dread ? Let me entreat you to 
lay aside your party disputes. They have been as I con- 
ceive, and believe yet will be, if continued, of very great 
disadvantage to your public as well as private concerns. 
While these disputes last, Government will want that 
energy which is necessary to support her laws and 
civilize; in place of which, anarchy and confusion 



136 JOHN SEVIER. 

will be prevalent, and, of course, private interest will 
suffer. 

"It certainly would be sound policy in you, for other 
reasons, to unite. The General Assembly has told you 
that, whenever your wealth and numbers so much in- 
crease as to make a separation necessary, they will be 
willing the same shall take place upon friendly and re- 
ciprocal terms. Is there an individual in your country 
who doe3 not look forward in expectation of such a day 
arriving ? If that is the case, must not every thinking 
man believe that this separation will be soonest and most 
effectually obtained by unanimity ? Let that carry you 
to a quiet submission to the laws of North Carolina till 
your numbers will justify a general application ; and 
then I have no doubt but the same may be obtained — 
nay, it is my opinion that it may be obtained at an ear- 
lier date than some imagine, if unanimity prevail among 
you. Although this is an official letter, you will readily 
see that it is dictated by a friendly and pacific mind. 
Don't neglect my advice on that account. . . . 

" I will conclude by once more entreating you to 
consider the dreadful calamities and consequences of a 
civil war. Humanity demands this of me ; your own 
good sense will point out the propriety of it ; at least, let 
all animosities and disputes subside till the next Assem- 
bly ; even let things remain as they are, without pursu- 
ing compulsory measures till then, and I flatter myself 
that honorable body will be disposed to do what is just 
and right, and what sound policy may dictate." 



QUAKER GUNS. 137 

The friendly spirit seen in this manifesto was as oil 
poured upon troubled waters. It stilled the public ex- 
citement, and, their passions once allayed, men began to 
reflect coolly upon the situation. The State of North 
Carolina granted nothing and exacted everything, and 
its selfish rule had become intolerable. Many of its ad- 
herents were social nuisances, the natural enemies of law 
and order, and there could be no peace so long as they 
were in the ascendency. But was it wise to resort to 
one evil to suppress another, to resist law, that they 
might establish good order ? The Governor had now 
distinctly said that unanimity and a little patient wait- 
ing would secure the desired separation ; and was it not 
better to adopt this course than to incur the horrors of 
civil war ? And, meanwhile, might they not put down 
the disorderly demagogues who were disturbing the 
peace, by going to the polls and electing to office men 
who would correctly represent the whole community ? 
A large majority of the stanchest friends of the new 
government now came to this conclusion, and the con- 
sequence was that within sixty days the State of Frank- 
lin went quietly, and without a struggle, out of exist- 
ence. 

In adopting this course the western people would at 
first sight appear to have avoided one danger only to 
rush upon another, and the danger they most feared — 
exposure to the expected attack from the Creeks and 
Cherokees, with none to lead them but the incompetent 
officers set over them by North Carolina. But their de- 



138 JOHN SEVIER. 

cision to loyally accept the rule of that State was made 
with an important mental reservation. Their submission 
was intended to extend merely to civil affairs. In mili- 
tary matters they should act for themselves, and choose 
their own leaders. In this they deemed themselves justi- 
fied by the law of self-preservation, and to this North 
Carolina could certainly take no exception, if it should 
be the means of defending the country against her own 
and their enemies. No public announcement was made 
of this ; but when Evan Shelby came to enroll his "bri- 
gade, to be in readiness for the expected savage on- 
slaught, he discovered that not above five hundred men 
out of a total of more than four thousand answered to 
his summons. The rest would have no leader but Noli- 
chucky Jack, for under no one else could they be assured 
of victory. This appears the more striking, when it is 
considered that Sevier was now merely a private citizen, 
not only without legal authority, but actually proscribed, 
because he had neglected to make overt submission to 
North Carolina. 

Nevertheless it was so, as was clearly shown late in 
June of this year, when a report came that the Creeks 
had made a raid into Georgia, killing no less than 
twenty-five families. The attack was regarded as the 
beginning of the threatened war, and Sevier called at 
once for volunteers to be ready to march on the demand 
of the Georgians. Every man was to arm and equip 
himself, and they were to march some five hundred miles 
through a trackless forest, and into the heart of the 



QUAKER GUNS. 139 

Creek country ; but at a single summons three thousand 
men reported themselves ready for duty to their respect- 
ive brigadiers, Cocke and Kennedy.* No call came from 
the Georgia Governor, and the report proved to be un- 
founded ; but the incident illustrated how completely 
Sevier held in hand nearly the entire military strength 
of the Territory. Unwilling to see another general, and 
he a private citizen, thus in command of his own depart- 
ment, Evan Shelby at once resigned — an unfortunate 
occurrence, inasmuch as it set over the North Carolina 
troops the same Joseph Martin who had concocted the 
treaty of Hopewell. 

The country continued in hourly expectation of an 
outbreak of hostilities until the middle of August, when 
word came from Robertson that the long-meditated blow 
was to fall first upon the settlements along the Cumber- 
land. It had been reported to him by the Chickasaws 
that at a grand council of the Creeks, held shortly be- 
fore, it had been determined to fall upon and extermi- 
nate the Nashville settlers, and it was expected the 
Cherokee nation would join in the attack. Robertson 
was short of ammunition, and unprepared for an on- 
slaught from such overpowering numbers. He had asked 
North Carolina for aid, but Governor Caswell had writ- 
ten that he was unable "to give any ; he had also applied 
to Kentucky, but feared he should get none from there 



* Letter from General Kennedy to Governor Mathews, of Georgia, 
June 29, 1*787. 



140 JOHN SEVIER. 

in time. He knew that the Franklin government had 
been overthrown, and he was apprehensive that Sevier 
was in no condition to help him, nevertheless he wrote 
to him : "I beg of you to use your influence to relieve 
us. I think it might be done by fixing a station near 
the mouth of Elk, or by marching a body of men into 
the Cherokee country, or — in any manner you may judge 
beneficial. I candidly assure you there never was a time 
when I imagined we were in more danger."* 

Only five days subsequent to the receipt of Robert- 
son's letter, Sevier received one from Anthony Bledsoe, 
which stated that small parties of Creeks and Chicka- 
maugas were already marauding through the Cumber- 
land settlements, stealing horses, and killing the peace- 
able inhabitants, who were deserting their homes and 
fleeing to the forts for protection. The only way, he 
said, that peace could be assured to his distressed coun- 
try was by distressing the Chickamaugas ; and he re- 
minded Sevier that, when he had last seen him, Sevier 
had proposed to send without delay an expedition against 
that perfidious tribe should they again attack the Cum- 
berland settlers, of which he had requested Bledsoe to 
notify him.f 

Sevier did not need this reminder to secure his 
prompt action. He at once called for six hundred vol- 



* James Robertson to John Sevier, Nashville, August 1, 1787. 
| Letter from A. Bledsoe to John Sevier, dated Sumner County, 
August 5, 1787. 



QUAKER GUNS. 141 

unteers, two hundred of whom he dispatched, under 
Captain Nathaniel Evans, to the immediate relief of 
Kobertson ; the remainder, under competent officers, he 
ordered to the mouth of Elk Eiver, to build there a 
fort, and intercept any parties of Chickamaugas who 
might attempt to go upon the war-path. The timely 
arrival of the troops under Evans, with the ammunition 
they supplied, enabled Eobertson to beat off the present 
attack ; and the sudden appearance of the other force in 
the Indian country prevented any further irruptions of 
the savages. The Chickamaugas regarded this force as 
merely the advance of a larger one, which "'Chucky 
Jack" would lead against them in case they or the 
Creeks made any further hostile movement, and in fear 
of this both nations suspended hostilities until a stronger 
coalition should be effected. 

By the compact between Sevier and Evan Shelby the 
people were at liberty to pay taxes to either government 
at their option. The result was that, as a general thing, 
they paid them to neither, and consequently the treas-\ 
ury of Franklin was at this time empty. But moneyl 
was required for the fitting out of these expeditions, and 
also to fully equip the force which was intended to be 
marched into the Creek country ; for, though every 
backwoodsman had his own rifle and hunting-knife, all 
were not provided with such an outfit as was required 
upon protracted expeditions. Sevier had been a man 
of large wealth for the times, and, ever since the first 
settlement of the country, he had stood in the gap in 

14 



142 JOHN SEVIER. 

all similar emergencies, contributing liberally of his 
means to equip his men, and often having hundreds of 
them at free quarters upon his plantation. For all this 
he had never received any compensation from the govern- 
ment, and the consequence of his exceeding liberality 
was that he came out of the Eevolution stripped of all 
his property, except his home, and the necessary force of 
negroes to work his plantation. But he had that "good 
name" which, even in commercial circles, is "better 
than great riches." He had now only to ])ledge this, to 
finish the equipment of his volunteer forces. This 
he did, wisely or unwisely, and the consequence was 
that, though he saved his friend Robertson, he put 
himself in the power of his inveterate enemy, John 
Tipton. 

It was when he was thus arming troops without au- 
thority of law, and branded as a rebel by the Legislature 
of North Carolina, that Sevier received from the first 
military men of the time the highest honor which was 
in their power to bestow. Without solicitation on his 
part, he was elected a member of the Order of the Cin- 
cinnati, a society composed of the most distinguished 
officers of the Eevolution, of which Washington was 
president-general to the close of his life, and to which 
none were admitted but men of high standing and un- 
sullied record. Their estimate of Sevier will appear 
from the report of the committee which passed upon his 
nomination. "He had," they said, "a principal merit 
in the rapid and well-conducted volunteer expedition to 



QUAKER GUNS. US 

attack Colonel Ferguson, at King's Mountain, and a 
great share in the honor of that day, which, it is well 
known, gave a favorable turn to our gloomy and dis- 
tressed situation ; and an opportunity never yet appeared 
but what confessed him an ardent friend and real gen- 
tleman. " 

At this time, also, letters poured in upon him from 
many eminent men, advising him as to his course, and 
expressing the hope that he would be able to extricate 
himself and the western settlers from the difficulties by 
which they were surrounded. Among these, Benjamin 
Franklin wrote him frequentty, but only one of his let- 
ters has escaped the ravages of our recent civil war. It 
is so characteristic, has so much of the "homely wisdom 
of Poor Richard," that such portions as bear upon the 
subject of this history are here copied. He said: 
" There are two things which humanity induces me to 
wish you may succeed in — the accommodating your mis- 
understanding with the government of North Carolina, 
and the avoiding an Indian war by preventing encroach- 
ments on their lands. Such encroachments are the more 
unjustifiable, as these people, in the fair way of pur- 
chase, usually give very good bargains ; and, in one 
year's war with them, you may surfer a loss of prop- 
erty, and be put to an expense, vastly exceeding in value 
what would have contented them in fairly buying the 
lands they can spare. 

". . . If anything should occur to me that I think 
may be useful to you, you shall hear from me thereupon. 



144 JOHN SEVIER. 

I conclude with repeating my wish that you may ami- 
cably settle your difference with North Carolina. The 
inconvenience to your people, attending so remote a seat 
of government, and the difficulty to that government in 
ruling well so remote a people, would, I think, be power- 
ful inducements to it to accede to any fair and reason- 
able proposition it may receive from you if the cession 
act had not passed." 

Dr. Franklin did not know the Cherokee Indians, 
nor the element then in control of the Legislature of 
North Carolina. Had he known them, he might have 
questioned the possibility of sustaining peaceable rela- 
tions with the savages, or of effecting an amicable settle- 
ment with the scarcely more civilized " sand-hillers " 
over the mountains. 

But, though submission was general in the district 
contiguous to North Carolina, the more westerly coun- 
ties continued to hold a divided allegiance — two classes 
of officials acting peaceably side by side, and a majority 
of the people still regarding and addressing Sevier as 
Governor, though he appears to have no longer in any 
'manner exercised the authority of that position. This 
divided allegiance did not meet the views of Mr. John 
Tipton, who now was the principal representative of 
North Carolina in the settlements. In Greene County 
particularly the people were obstinate in their adhesion 
to the new State, clinging even to its corpse after all 
vitality had left it, and Tipton essayed to restore the old 
order of things by resorting to his original expedient of 



QUAKER GUNS. 145 

capturing the records. He made the attempt in the 
latter part of August, and, but for the timely interven- 
tion of Sevier, the consequences would have been dis- 
astrous to himself. The incident is related in a 
letter to Major El holm from General Cocke,* who 
was a resident of Greene County. The letter was as 
follows : 

" Colonel Tipton appeared the other day with a party 
of about fifty men — of such as he could raise — under a 
pretense of redressing a quarrel that had arisen between 
our sheriff and the sheriff of North Carolina, though 
their principal view was to put themselves in possession 
of our records. This conduct produced a rapid report 
that they had made a prisoner of his Excellency, to 
carry him to North Carolina, which caused two hundred 
men to repair immediately to the house of Colonel Tip- 
ton before they became sensible of the mistake ; and it 
was only through the influence of his Excellency that 
the opposite party did not fall a sacrifice to our Franks. 
During this time a body of about fifteen hundred vet- 
erans embodied themselves to rescue (as they thought) 
their Governor out of the hands of the North Caro- 
linians, and bring him back to the mountains — an in- 
stance that proves our citizens to have too noble a 
spirit to yield to slavery, or to relish a national in- 
sult." 

* " Columbian Magazine," for November, 1 787. 



146 JOHN SEVIER. 

This incident appears to have warned Tipton of the 
danger attending a continued resort to violent measures. 
The consequence was that he desisted from any further 
acts of open hostility, and resorted to secret craft to 
accomplish what he most desired — the overthrow of Se- 
vier, and his own ascendency over the people, which 
last, he thought, could not be achieved so long as 
their beloved Nolichucky Jack was in the Territory. 
In this he reckoned without foundation, for the great 
majority were order-loving and law-abiding, and would, 
in no circumstances, have accepted Tipton as their 
leader. The masses — those whom Mr. Lincoln styled 
"the plain, common people" — are everywhere won- 
derfully clearsighted, and readily distinguish the un- 
selfish patriot from the self-seeking, ambitious dema- 
gogue. 

Therefore, though the war-cloud still hung black 
and ominous over all the border, there was peace now 
throughout the scattered settlements. Except in the 
most westerly districts, the people everywhere submitted 
to the rule of North Carolina, in hopes thereby to bring 
about the separation which Governor Caswell had pro- 
claimed would no doubt soon result from unanimity 
among them. The great majority were as ardently de- 
sirous of independence as when they organized the State 
of Franklin ; and, the North Carolina Legislature hav- 
ing come together in November, Sevier determined to 
make still another effort to effect an adjustment of the 
differences with the "mother-State." Heretofore he 



QUAKER GUNS. 147 

had appealed to her reason and her sense of right and 
expediency ; now he decided to approach her on her 
most vulnerable side — the watchfully guarded State 
treasury. He commissioned Colonel Francis A. Kamsey, 
his late Secretary of State, to wait upon the Legislature, 
and propose, as an inducement to separation, the as- 
sumption by Franklin of the entire Continental debt of 
North Carolina, then amounting to between four and 
five million dollars. Colonel Kamsey was the father of 
the venerable historian of Tennessee, and the latter, even 
in extreme old age, was one of the most eloquent men I 
ever listened to. If eloquence be hereditary, Colonel 
Ramsey must have possessed remarkable powers of per- 
suasion ; but he failed to persuade these legislators. 
For months, however, they nibbled at the glittering bait, 
and there were times when the colonel thought it would 
be taken ; but at last they told him that they had de- 
cided to stay, for the present, out of the Union, and, 
while they did so, they could not consent to the ces- 
sion of any portion of their territory to the United 
States. 

Meanwhile, Georgia had tired of the repeated out- 
rages of the Creeks upon her western settlers, and its 
Governor had written Sevier: "The Assembly of this 
State are now fully persuaded that they never can have 
a secure and lasting peace with the Creek Indians till 
they are well chastised and made to feel severely the 
effects of war. They have passed a law for raising 
three thousand men for that purpose, and have em- 



148 JOHN SEVIER. 

powered the Executive to call for fifteen hundred men 
from Franklin, in addition to that number." 

This letter was dated Augusta, November 12, 1787, 
and was forwarded by a special messenger ; but he had a 
horseback-ride of three hundred miles through the woods, 
and did not reach Sevier till the 28th of that month. 
Two hundred of Sevier's men were still away with 
Eobertson, and four hundred more were yet posted on 
the Tennessee, at the mouth of Elk Kiver, but without a 
moment's delay he issued a circular calling for fifteen 
hundred to go to the aid of Georgia. In it he said : " I 
think to take the field once more " ; and he offered his 
men "the honor of assisting a very generous and friendly 
sister State to conquer and chastise an insolent and bar- 
barous savage nation." He closed by saying : "I hope, 
after seeing the great notice and respect shown us by the 
State of Georgia, in her application for our assistance, 
and the high confidence they place in our spirit and 
bravery, that the people here will be animated with the 
idea that, like a young officer who first enters the field, 
they are competent, by their bravery and merit, to make 
themselves known and respected among the nations of 
the world. . . . We have not large cities and sea-ports, 
which generally sink men into wealth and luxury, by 
which means their offspring dwindle into effeminacy 
and dissipation, yet I hope we shall always remain as 
happy, free, and independent as any other people ; if 
not, sure I am it will be our own fault, and we ought 
never to be pitied." 



QUAKER GUKS. 149 

The circular has a clear, metallic ring, like that of 
steel upon flint, and it struck fire from the hearts of the 
backwoods people. Within four days fifteen hundred 
men came together, armed and equipped, and ready for 
a march of four or five hundred miles into the mount- 
ains of Georgia. Such magic was there in the words of 
Nolichucky Jack, he merely a private citizen ; and, in 
fact, not so much as that, for at that very moment the 
Legislature of North Carolina had passed an "Act of 
Pardon and Oblivion " for all who had taken part in the 
Franklin revolt, but distinctly provided " that the bene- 
fit of this act shall not entitle John Sevier to the enjoy- 
ment of any office of profit, or honor, or trust, in the 
State of North Carolina, but that he be expressly de- 
barred therefrom." 

Thus did North Carolina thrust into outlawry the 
very man who, in the darkest hour of her history, had 
saved her from destruction ! 

Again, the men did not march on the Georgia sum- 
mons, because that State decided to suspend warlike 
operations in consequence of the appointment of com- 
missioners by Congress to conclude a treaty with the 
Creek Indians. Considerable time was consumed in the 
negotiation, and meanwhile Sevier's men returned to 
their homes, to there await his call should there be an 
outbreak of hostilities. 

Soon tidings came from over the mountains of the 
outlawry of Sevier, and the failure of his final effort to 
bring about a separation of Franklin from North Caro- 



150 JOHN SEVIER. 

lina. The news speedily reached the Cherokees, who now 
concluded that they could make their long-intended raid 
on the settlers south of the French Broad and Holston 
without interference from Nolichucky Jack and his rifle- 
men. Fear of him had held them inactive, while settlers 
had been thrusting forward their cabins to the extreme 
southern boundary of the lands ceded to Franklin. By 
the' treaty of Hopewell, the intruding settlers were 
"liable to be punished by the Indians, as they might 
think proper," and, haying thus a legal right to rob and 
murder at their discretion, the Cherokees now prepared 
for an overwhelming onslaught upon these exposed set- 
tlements. 

Tidings of these preparations were at once con- 
veyed to Sevier, and without an hour's delay he mounted 
his horse and set out for the frontier. He was on 
the borders of Greene County, concerting measures to 
repel the expected invasion, when word came to him 
that his inveterate enemy, Tipton, had taken advan- 
tage of his absence to attach his property for the debt 
he had contracted in fitting out the expedition for the 
relief of Robertson. Either by buying up these claims, 
or by inducing their holders to take summary action, 
Tipton had secured a levy upon Sevier's negroes, and 
removed them to his own house in waiting for their sale 
under execution. Without his field-hands, Sevier would 
be unable to work his plantation ; and thus, while denied 
the common rights of citizenship, he was about to be de- 
prived of the means of sustaining his family. Stung 



QUAKER GUNS. 151 

by such implacable enmity, and indignant at so high- 
handed an outrage, he listened to the fiery spirits about 
him, and determined to return to his home and forcibly 
recover his property. About a hundred and fifty of his 
men volunteered to accompany him, and with them he 
set out at once for the house of Tipton, more than a 
hundred miles distant. 

Sevier always moved with great celerity, but on this 
occasion the tidings of his approach preceded him. 
News travels with amazing rapidity in sections destitute 
of mail and telegraphic facilities ; but it is probable that 
Tipton had placed spies with Sevier to give him timely 
notice of his movements. However this may have been, 
he had sufficient warning of Sevier's approach to call to his 
aid fifteen of his friends, and to dispatch a messenger to 
Colonel Maxwell, asking him to come to his assistance 
with the regiment of Sullivan County. Tipton's house 
was located on the bank of a small creek flowing into the 
Watauga, about eight miles east of Jonesboro, and, like 
most of the better class of backwoods dwellings of the 
period, was substantially a fort, capable, when properly 
manned, of resisting attack from greatly superior num- 
bers. A similar structure, defended by only the num- 
ber of men who were now with Tipton, a few years 
later, successfully resisted, in the vicinity of Nashville, 
an assault from seven hundred savages. 

It was a cold day, late in February, when Sevier with 
his one hundred and fifty men, and a piece of small ord- 
nance, arrived before this log fortification. Seeing at a 



152 JOHN SEVIER. 

glance that Tipton had prepared for his coming, he 
placed his men on some low ground out of the reach of 
Tipton's rifles, and sent in a summons for the surrender 
of his negroes, threatening to fire upon the building in 
case of refusal. To this Tipton returned answer, in the 
elegant phraseology to which he was accustomed, "Fire 
and be damned ! " Cowardice was not one of Tipton's 
weaknesses. Major Elholm, who was with Sevier, now 
proposed to him to erect a movable battery with the 
small cannon, under cover of which the troops might 
safely advance and carry the place by assault. To this 
Sevier gave a prompt refusal, declaring that not a gun 
should be fired. But, meanwhile, some of his men, who 
had posted themselves upon a ledge of rocks in near 
vicinity to the house, observing a number of persons 
about to enter the place, did fire upon them, killing one 
and wounding another. To them Sevier at once sent 
orders to desist from firing, and to Elholm, who now re- 
newed his application to storm the building, and offered 
to lead the assault, he gave a more emphatic refusal, say- 
ing that he had not come there to kill his country- 
men. 

Sevier now attempted to open negotiations with Tip- 
ton, but the latter refused all communication with him, 
feeling sure he could hold out until succor should come 
from Sullivan County, and doubtless anxious to lure 
Sevier on to an attack which would have placed him in 
the position of armed insurrection. 

Thus things remained during the rest of the day, El- 



QUAKER GUNS. 153 

holm repeatedly urging the necessity of an assault before 
re-enforcements should arrive to Tipton, and Sevier as 
often refusing to imbrue his hands in the blood of his 
countrymen. He must have seen that only a prompt 
exertion of force could accomplish the object of his ex- 
pedition, but he stood inactive and irresolute. On all 
other occasions he had been quick to resolve and rapid to 
execute, and his present indecision shows that he must 
now have been torn by conflicting emotions — his out- 
raged feelings as a man struggling with his sense of duty 
as a patriot and a citizen. This struggle was seen in his 
demeanor, which was usually of a most winning suavity. 
He now for the only time in his life was reserved, au- 
stere, abstracted, and even morose, answering all who 
addressed him with a curt severity that was entirely con- 
trary to his custom. Circumstances had forced him into 
a false position, and his loyal nature rebelled at the 
thought of thus appearing to be at the head of insur- 
gents ready to engage in a fratricidal warfare. But his 
duty as a patriot overcame his pride as a soldier, his ob- 
ligations as a citizen his outraged feelings as a man. 
With present outlawry and future ruin staring him in 
the face, he resolutely said, " Not a shot shall be fired." 
Dr. Ramsey truly says that in no other instance did he 
give "a livelier exhibition of the true moral sublime of 
patriotism. " 

The feelings of the commander seemed to infect the 
spirits of the men. They, too, had not come out to im- 
brue their hands in the blood of their friends and conn- 
15 



154: JOHN SEVIER. 

trymen. Some reckless spirits were among them, but 
much the greater number had no relish for the turn 
affairs had taken. The night was cold and dark, and 
they gathered in silence about their camp-fires, or if they 
spoke it was in suppressed voices. They had followed 
Sevier on many a campaign, and always before, when the 
sentries were posted for the night, they had collected in 
joyous groups and passed the hours in merry laugh, and 
song and jest, unrestrained by the presence of their com- 
mander, who nightly made the rounds from mess to 
mess, joining in their hilarity, and addressing each one 
as if he had been his intimate companion. It was thus 
that Sevier made himself the comrade, friend, and idol 
of his soldiery. They looked for his coming as soon as 
he had seen for himself that the sentinels were in their 
proper positions. But this night he did not come. He 
sat by his camp-fire in moody silence, gazing abstractedly 
into the blaze, and even the vivacity of his friend El- 
holm failed to arouse him. He gave no orders, suggested 
no plan, made no preparation for either attack or de- 
fense. All through the night he sat there, absorbed in 
his own reflections. What those reflections were it is not 
difficult to conjecture, for we know the man and his self- 
sacrificing history. Did he not think of his many years 
of unselfish devotion to his country, of the wealth he 
had poured out like water in its service, of the many 
weary marches he had made, the battles he had fought, 
the deadly perils he had encountered, to give it peace 
and freedom ? And all for what ? To be driven forth 



QUAKER GUNS. 155 

from the soil he had conquered, and the peace he had 
won, a penniless man and an outlaw ! And then, per- 
haps, other thoughts came to him. Might he not yet 
retrieve his fortunes ? This man Maxwell, who was com- 
ing against him, would in his hands be but as a child in 
the grasp of a giant. Having crushed him, might he not 
sound the border slogan, rally the whole West to his side, 
and in one day dismember the country which had so un- 
gratefully requited his unselfish fidelity ? Doubtless he 
might have done so ; and perhaps such thoughts came 
to him, for a tempting devil is ever at our ears in our 
hours of extremest trial. But this devil did not know 
John Sevier. He might be an outlaw ; he might be a 
penniless wanderer in the land he loved ; and even worse 
might yet befall him, for there was no limit to the 
malice of his enemies ; but through it all he would 
stand erect and say, as Jackson said at a later period, 
"I will die in the last ditch before I will see this 
Union disunited ! " 

Possibly these were his thoughts while he sat there, 
by his smoldering camp-fire, till far into the cold gray 
of the winter morning. But suddenly, with the first 
streak of dawn, there came an explosion of a regiment 
of rifles ; and, springing upon his horse, Sevier saw 
his men fleeing like frightened deer in all directions. 
Then he spurred his horse into the thick-falling snow, 
and, for the first time in his life, turned his back upon 
his enemies. 

A heavy snow-storm had set in at midnight, and to 



156 JOHN SEVIER. 

thaw out their chilled limbs Sevier's pickets had repaired 
to the nearest camp-f res. This had allowed Maxwell to 
approach unperceived, under cover of the snow and the 
darkness ; and, unwilling to fire upon Sevier's troops, he 
had, when morning dawned, ordered his men to dis- 
charge their pieces in the air. Sevier's men aroused 
thus suddenly from sleep, taken by surprise and unwill- 
ing to fight, fled without firing a rifle, which ended this 
Quaker battle. 

Said Parmenas Taylor, who was one of Maxwell's men, 
and subsequently, with Sevier, one of Governor Blount's 
Council : " We did not go there to fight. Neither party 
intended to do that. Many on both sides were unarmed, 
and some who had guns did not even load them. Most 
of us went to prevent mischief, and did not intend to let 
the neighbors kill one another. Our men shot into the 
air, and Sevier's into the corners of the house. As to 
the storm of snow keeping the men from taking a sure 
aim, it is all a mistake. Both sides had the best marks- 
men in the world, who had often killed a deer, and shot 
it in the head, too, when a heavier snow was falling. 
The men did not try to hit anybody. They could easily 
have done so if they had been enemies." 

As Sevier rode away from this bloodless field he 
was met by messengers from the border, who had been 
sent to apprise him that the Indians were moving upon 
the western settlements in great numbers. "In a mo- 
ment," says Dr. Eamsey, "Sevier was himself again, 
elastic, brave, energetic, daring, and patriotic. At the 



QUAKER GUNS. 157 

head of a body of mounted riflemen he was at once upon 
the frontier to guard and protect its most defenseless 
points. " His property was lost, and he was an out- 
law ; but he had yet a life which he might give to 
his countrymen. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

SEVIETl AS AN OUTLAW. 

"Eight or nine thousand people had crossed the 
[Holston] river and settled upon lands now within the 
counties of Greene and Hawkins ; others had crossed the 
French Broad ; and yet others, not a few, were settled 
between Clinch River and Cumberland Mountain. All 
of these were there in violation of the treaty of Hope- 
well. And yet they were there by treaties with the In- 
dians, and by connivance and sanction of the State. 
By Sevier's treaty at Dumplin Creek these lands were 
granted to the white people for settlement and homes. 
The State of North Carolina had issued grants to her 
citizens to settle upon these lands. Under authorities 
and sanctions of this character these thousands of hardy 
and industrious farmers had gone there ; were busily 
preparing their homes there. They displaced no Indian, 
they seized no one's cabin or field ; they found it an al- 
most ' howling wilderness,' and they hastened to change 
the whole face of Nature by the opening of farms and 
building of houses. But now these Indians complain ; 
they allege that these settlers have trespassed upon In- 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 159 

dian territory, and demand their expulsion."* North 
Carolina listened to these complaints, and, coolly repudi- 
ating her own official grants and her promises of protec- 
tion to the settlers, she ordered a portion of these people 
off the lands they had in good faith occupied. And by a 
most curious logic she drew a line between them. Those 
north of the French Broad and Holston she would keep 
faith with ; those south of those rivers, holding their 
lands by precisely the same title, she would abandon to 
the savage mercy provided for them by the treaty of 
Hopewell. 

As near as can be ascertained, the people south of 
those rivers now numbered about three thousand, of whom 
not far from seven hundred were men inured to frontier 
life, and expert with the rifle. The country they occu- 
pied is comprised within the present counties of Blount 
and Sevier, Tennessee — a most beautiful region, watered 
by numerous streams, and interspersed with wooded hills 
and grassy valleys, where vegetation grows in rank luxu- 
riance, and the soil yields most abundant rewards to the 
husbandman. All over this delightful region could now 
be seen the clearings of the white settler. At first a soli- 
tary cabin went up in the midst of a dense forest ; then 
other cabins gathered about it, and the whole were in- 
closed in stout palisades, capable of resisting any small 
body of Indians. Then far and near the great trees were 
felled or girdled, the ground was broken up and planted, 

* Putnam's " History of Middle Tennessee," p. 344. 



160 JOHN SEVIER. 

and soon the whole clearing blossomed with the harvest 
These places were called "stations." Not a vestige of 
one of them at this time remains, but the site of many is 
indicated by the smiling hamlets and villages that now 
dot the whole of this enchanting region. 

Within the walls of these log fortresses the settler 
made his home ; but of necessity he went forth into the 
open country to till his fields and care for his cattle. 
But he never did this without his trusty dog and his rifle 
beside him. Though nominally at peace with the whites, 
the Cherokees knew that these people were delivered over 
to their tender mercy by the treaty of Hopewell. They 
avoided any attack in considerable numbers, from fear of 
provoking a conflict with Nolichucky Jack and his rifle- 
men, but they hung about the stations in small bodies, 
and never omitted a safe opportunity to commit a theft 
or do a murder. Hence, when one settler plowed his 
field, another stood guard over him in some commanding 
position from which he could observe an approaching 
enemy. Often were they driven to seek refuge for days 
within the walls of the stations, and on one or two occa- 
sions the more exposed were forced to abandon their 
homes, and fall back for brief periods upon the older set- 
tlements ; but there never was any permanent ebb in the 
tide of population. The retreating settler soon returned, 
re-enforced by other immigrants, and gradually he ex- 
tended his clearings down those fertile valleys till he be- 
held the rising smoke of the Cherokee wigwams on the 
spot where, time out of mind, had been the great council- 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 161 

house of the nation. And even here only force had 
stayed the settler's steps, for he belonged to a race 
which has no watchword but "Forward!" whose en- 
croaching spirit is one of the instrumentalities by which 
Providence is girdling the globe with law and civil- 
ization. 

In consequence of these encroachments the whole of 
that wide district had now become one broad battle-field, 
where the white man had met the red, and both had 
gone down to a swift destruction. The traveler to-day 
will scarcely come upon a spring, or a ford, or a wooded 
path among the hills in all that region, which had not, 
at the time whereof I am writing, been the scene of 
some savage atrocity, or some heroic exploit of the white 
settler battling for his home and the lives of his wife and 
children. So long as the State of Franklin existed, the 
conflict had not been so very unequal ; but that State 
was now dissolved, and these settlers — abandoned by 
North Carolina and outlawed by the General Govern- 
ment — were left a mere handful of seven hundred, to 
cope with twelve thousand infuriated savages, who now, 
in overpowering numbers, were said to be moving down 
upon them. But the settlers were not altogether aban- 
doned, for Nolichucky Jack was hastening to their 
rescue. He rode almost alone, a proscribed and penni- 
less man, bringing nothing but the sword he carried and 
the horse he bestrode ; but in his very name there was 
terror to these savages. So the settlers took heart as 
they gathered behind their log walls, and listened for the 



162 JOHN SEVIER. 

rapid tread of horses' feet which should announce his 
coming. 

Sevier rode almost alone, for his designs had become 
known, and — to employ his own words — his "enemies 
were making use of every diabolical plan in their power" 
to balk his intention of giving succor to the threatened 
settlers. As has been mentioned, Joseph Martin, the 
concocter of the treaty of Hopewell, had succeeded 
General Shelby in command of the troops acting under 
North Carolina. He relished no better than Shelby the 
holding of a divided command — the acting as general of 
a skeleton brigade, while a mere private citizen held con- 
trol of the actual military strength of the district. It 
was not for this that he had plotted the overthrow of 
Sevier, nor would his ambition be satisfied with the mere 
shadow without the substance of authority. He had 
been appointed to Sevier's position, but he could not 
fill it without gaining over to himself Sevier's followers, 
and driving their beloved leader from the Territory. He 
was subtle, sleek, and sinuous ; and burrowing under- 
ground seems to have been the mode to which he natu- 
rally resorted to attain his objects. And, indeed, in no 
other way could he accomplish his present purpose, for 
Sevier was so firmly rooted in the affections of the peo- 
ple that any open assault upon him would surely recoil 
upon himself, as it had upon Tipton, whose friends were 
fewer now than at the beginning. 

Martin's plans were furthered by the fact that there 
had arisen "a new king in Egypt, who knew not 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 163 

Joseph" — Governor Caswell having been succeeded by 
Samuel Johnston, a worthy man, but wholly ignorant of 
western affairs, and only anxious to end the discontent 
in the speediest manner possible. From him Martin 
secured permission to remove all the militia officers 
lately appointed by North Carolina, with the sole excep- 
tion of the colonels — Tipton, Maxwell, and Hutchins — 
and to reinstate in their places Sevier's captains, or such 
others as might be elected by the men themselves. This 
was restoring the old organization, excepting only its 
head, Sevier ; and Martin counted confidently upon 
thereby gaining full control of the military strength of 
the Territory. It was, in truth, a master-stroke of 
policy ; but it failed for lack of co-operation on the part 
of Sevier's captains. Those scarred veterans looked 
askance at the brand-new parchments which greeted 
them by their old titles. They had probably never heard 
of the play of "Hamlet" with the part of Hamlet omit- 
ted ; but they put the same thought into their vernacular 
language, and said to one another, "Who can ride the 
bay mare but our old commander ?" Having said this, 
they tossed the parchments aside, and thought no more 
of General Martin. 

This was the condition of affairs when, on the even- 
ing of March 15, 1788, Sevier rode into the little town of 
Greeneville, on his rapid way to the border. Though 
the county-seat of Greene County, and the recent capital 
of the State of Franklin, Greeneville was then not much 
of a town. It was merely a score of log-cabins, clustered 



; 



164 JOHN SEVIER. 

around a court-house also of logs, and without windows, 
or other than a single opening, in which hung a plank 
door on stout wooden hinges. Opposite to this imposing 
temple of justice was a log-cabin somewhat larger than 
the rest, and having before it, perched upon a tall pole, 
a huge sign — a yellow sun rising over red mountains, and 
casting its mellow rays upon the name of " Thomas 
Hughes, Innkeeper." Beneath this sign, and beyond 
the rays of the aforesaid rising sun, was a smaller board, 
which announced to all comers, "Entertainment for 
Man and Beast," at the moderate rate of "one shilling 
for diet, fourpence for lodging, sixpence for pasture and 
stable, eightpence for corn per gallon, and sixpence per 
half-pint for liquor." There being eight shillings in a 
North Carolina dollar, it will be seen from these "tavern 
rates " that any one with but a moderate supply of legal 
currency could then take his ease in a backwoods inn for 
an almost indefinite period. 

Before this rude hostelry Sevier now alighted with 
the one hundred and fifty men who had followed him 
from Washington County, and here he was met by a 
number of his captains, who apprised him of the new 
tactics which Martin had adopted, and of a report, every- 
where industriously circulated, that any officer or man 
serving under him was to be expressly outlawed by North 
Carolina. Sevier heard the tidings without emotion, for 
he was a man who took Fortune's ordinary "buffets and 
rewards with equal thanks " ; but instantly he decided to 
give all the aid he could to the designs of his enemy. As 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 165 

soon as his men had somewhat refreshed themselves he 
called them all about him, and dispatched nearly the 
whole troop in various directions to call his old captains 
together for a conference upon the ensuing Friday. The 
emergency, he said, was pressing ; every man must turn 
out, for he conceived the settlements to be in imminent 
danger. 

They came, to the number of about three hundred — 
nearly all of Sevier's late subalterns — clad in linsey leg- 
gins and buckskin hunting-shirts, and mounted on fleet 
horses, every man having his sword by his side, his pistols 
or hunting-knife in his belt, and his trusty rifle slung 
to the pommel of his saddle. They were all of stalwart 
frame, strong and wiry, with bronzed faces, resolute 
looks, and a certain cool and dauntless bearing, which 
showed them familiar with battle and with victory. 
Such another body of men it would have been hard to 
find even in those days, and west of the Alleghanies. 
One glance at them was enough to account for Sevier's 
amazing exploits in border warfare ; and the greeting 
they gave him proclaimed that, though now a proscribed 
and branded man, Kolichucky Jack was still the un- 
crowned king of the backwoods. 

It was early March, and the morning was cold, but 

no building in the little town would hold the concourse, 

so they gathered in the open air, under the great trees 

which grew about the court-house. Each man upon his 

horse, they ranged themselves in silence, several men 

deep, around Sevier and Cocke and Kennedy, till they 
16 



166 JOHN SEVIER. 

formed a circle, in the center of which were the three 
generals, and on the circumference the hundred and fifty 
men who had shared in the recent bloodless battle. 
Kennedy was the first to speak. Briefly he explained 
the situation — the service offered by Martin, the out- 
lawry threatened by North Carolina. Each man was free 
to do as he pleased ; but, as for him, he had fought and 
bled with his general, and, let North Carolina do her 
worst, he should not desert his old commander. The feel- 
ing in his words found a responsive chord in the breast 
of every man present, and at once there went up a shout 
from every throat that rang through the old woods and 
was echoed back from the distant mountains. Then the 
men crowded more closely around their leader, each one 
with some expression of unwavering devotion. 

Sevier was a man of the keenest sensibilities, and he 
must have felt deeply these tokens of attachment. It is 
said that he sat his horse for some time in silence, and 
that when he spoke his speech had none of his usual 
rapid and energetic utterance. He thanked the men for 
their devotion to him, and he hoped the time would soon 
come when he might again lead them against the enemy ; 
but now, it was better that they should part. They 
were in the presence of a peril greater than any which 
had yet confronted the settlements, and division in the 
country might be attended with disastrous consequences ; 
therefore, it was his wish that each man should accept 
the commission offered him by North Carolina, rejoin 
and recruit his company, and make his men ready for 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. J.67 

the struggle that was impending. He himself, with the 
few who were with him, would go on to the frontier, 
where the French Broad settlers, without hope of other 
aid than his, were threatened with speedy extermination. 
However, he knew the border settlers, and he had confi- 
dence that with them he could beat off the Cherokees. If 
the Creeks should rise, Georgia would call for volunteers, 
and then, as he was a general in the army of that State, 
his old comrades might again serve under him without 
violating any law whatever. Now, it was best that every 
man should return to his home, and quietly submit to 
the rule of North Carolina. As for himself, his first 
duty was to stand by the French Broad settlers. That 
done, some way would be opened by which he might be 
of further service to his country. The sky over his head \ 
was now dark, but the sun was in the heavens, and it 
might rise unclouded on the morrow. 

This is the . substance of what Sevier said to his offi- 
cers, when denied so much as a single volunteer by 
North Carolina. Even then he could have rallied the 
whole West to his support ; but he preferred to send his 
men to their homes, and to go himself, almost alone, to 
meet, with but a handful, a whole nation of savages. If 
this is ambition, then is it ambition that would lift a 
more ordinary man than Sevier to the altitude of a hero. 

The men knew their leader, and his tone and manner 
convinced them that he had taken an irrevocable resolu- 
tion ; so they attempted neither remonstrance nor en- 
treaty, but with moistened eyes and quivering lips they 



168 JOHN SEVIER. 

gathered about him, each one to say some last word at 
parting. One after another he took them by the hand, 
and then without another word he waved his sword to 
his hundred and fifty men, and turned his horse's head 
to the westward. Among the troop that followed him 
were some of his old officers who were resolved to share 
his fortunes, whatever they might be. Among these 
were Kennedy, his recent brigadier ; Cozby, one of his 
oldest subalterns ; Hubbard, the slayer of Untoola ; and 
Evans, who had left his company of two hundred with 
Robertson, and hurried over the Cumberland Mountain 
as soon as he heard of the misfortunes of his old com- 
mander. Others were moving out from the circle in 
front of the court-house when Sevier halted his horse, 
and, turning to them, asked that none should attempt 
to follow him. Thereupon Kennedy requested that he 
might go on to see if more force were not needed at the 
front ; if it were not, he would at once return and 
accept the colonel's commission already tendered him 
by North Carolina. This Kennedy said and did ; but 
the others said nothing — Cozby and Evans, because 
they had resolved not to leave their old leader ; Hub- 
bard, because being with Sevier he would be the sooner 
within rifle-shot of the Cherokees.* 

Of this gathering Martin soon heard, and about it he 
wrote to the Governor of North Carolina as follows : 
He dates his letter " Long Island (near the junction of 

* From conversations with Dr. Ramsey. 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 169 

the North and South Forks of the Holston) 24th 
March, 1788." In it he says : 

"Sir: The confusion of this country induces me to 
lay before your Excellency, by express, our present situa- 
tion, which is truly alarming. I sent, on Saturday last, 
to Sevier and his party, requiring them to lay down their 
arms, and submit to the laws of North Carolina, but can 
get no answer, only from Colonel Joseph Hardin, which 
I forward ; though I know that on Friday last they met 
in convention, to concert some plan. The bearer of my 
express to them informs me that he understood that 
Sevier had gone toward the French Broad since the 
10th instant ; that Colonel Kennedy, with several others, 
had gone the same way to carry on an expedition against 
the Cherokee Indians, which, I am well assured, wish to 
be at peace — except the Chickamauga party, which could 
be easily driven out of that country if your Excellency 
should recommend it. I am somewhat doubtful that 
Sevier and his party are embodying, under the color of 
an Indian expedition, to amuse us, and that their real 
object is to make an attack on the citizens of this State ; 
to prevent which, I have ordered the different colonels to 
have their men in good order, until I can hear from your 
Excellency ; at which time, I hope, you will give me 
directions in what manner to proceed in this uncommon 
and critical situation, for which I shall wait till the 
return of the express before I shall take any decisive 
steps. 



170 JOHN SEVIER. 

" Should the Franks still persist to oppose the laws 
of this State, would it not be well to order General 
McDowell to give some assistance — as a few men from 
there will convince them that North Carolina is deter- 
mined to protect her citizens ? " 

Three days only prior to dispatching this letter to 
Governor Johnston, this same Martin wrote to General 
Kennedy as follows : 

"I am greatly distressed and alarmed at the late pro- 
ceedings of our countrymen and friends, and must beg 
your friendly interposition, in order to bring about a 
reconciliation, which, you well know, was my object in 
accepting the brigadier's commission. I am, perhaps, as 
little afraid of stepping forth in the field of action as any 
other man ; but I would be sorry to imbrue my hands in 
the blood of my countrymen and friends, and will take 
every method in my power to prevent anything of that 
nature. In our present situation, nothing will do but a 
submission to the laws of North Carolina, which I most 
earnestly recommend to the people. You well know this 
is the only way to bring about a separation, and also a 
reconciliation for our worthy friend [Sevier], whose 
situation at this time is very disagreeable. I most 
sensibly feel for him, and will go very great lengths 
to serve him. Pray see him often, and give him all the 
comfort you can. 

"I am told that a certain officer [Tipton] says that 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 171 

if I issue an order for a reconciliation, that it shall not 
be obeyed ; but I shall let that gentleman know I am not 
to be trifled with. Pray write me all what the people 
will do, and whether you will accept your commission, 
which I hope you will. Have the militia immediately 
officered and prepared for action, as I expect a general 
Indian war shortly. Please give my best respects to the 
people in general. Tell them my object is reconciliation, 
not war." 

Hypocrisy is said to be "the homage that vice pays 
to virtue." Of this character was the tribute which this 
man paid to Sevier. A comparison of the two letters is 
enough to show his deep duplicity, for in every particular 
one letter contradicts the other. As subsequent events 
show, Martin's sole motive in writing to Kennedy was to 
detach him from Sevier ; his aim in addressing the Gov- 
ernor was to prepare that official's mind for proceeding 
against the Franklin leader on a charge of high treason ; 
hence Martin's insinuation that Sevier was levying troops 
to attack the citizens — a charge which he must have 
known to be outrageously false. 

But, ignorant of these designs of his enemies, Sevier 
rode rapidly on to Houston's Station. Every step of his 
way was an ovation, and, despite his every effort to pre- 
vent it, before he had crossed the French Broad his troop 
had been augmented by about a hundred of his old 
soldiers, who, whether he would or not, insisted upon 
marching with him against the enemy. But when he 



172 JOHN SEVIER. 

had once forded that river, the people went wild with 
excitement. They flocked about him wherever he went, 
strong men weeping, anxious women clasping him in 
their arms, and little children clinging to his knees — for 
had he not come to deliver them from a great danger ? 
Said an old man of ninety-seven to me in 1880 : "He 
was a great man, was 'Chucky Jack. I remember him 
right well, sir. I was a boy of five years when he came 
across the French Broad to fight the Indians. We all 
went out to greet him. He shook hands with dad, and 
gave him some orders, for dad had fit under him ; then 
he bent over his saddle and kissed mother, and asked dad 
to lift me up that he might kiss me, too. Dad put me 
up on the saddle, and 'Chucky Jack took me in his arms, 
patted me on the head, and said that I should soon grow 
up to be as brave a man as my father. Ah ! sir, I shall 
never forget that." When time had razed about every- 
thing else from the old man's brain, and he could no 
longer recognize even his own children, he vividly re- 
membered 'Chucky Jack, and his taking him up in his 
arms and speaking kind words to him ! 

The Cherokees had not yet appeared in the settle- 
ments, but the traders had come in, reporting that the 
whole nation was about to go upon the war-path. The 
Indians had heard of the overthrow of Sevier, and 
counted upon an easy conquest of the French Broad set- 
tlements. That effected, they proposed to move for- 
ward and drive every settler beyond the Big Pigeon — 
the eastern limit of their hunting-grounds, as defined 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 173 

by the treaty of Hopewell. On arriving at the settle- 
ments, it was probable they would break into small par- 
ties, and attack simultaneously every one of the scattered 
stations. Sevier took his measures accordingly. The 
weaker stations he ordered to be abandoned, and the 
people to gather together in the stronger ones. The de- 
fenses of these were strengthened, and garrisons detailed 
for them, no man of which was to leave his post except 
at the call of the commander. He, with a select body of 
about four hundred men, well mounted, was to stand 
ready to meet any attack in force, or to invade the In- 
dian country, as circumstances might dictate. In all 
previous conflicts, invasion had proved the most effective 
mode of driving back the enemy. His own wigwam 
threatened, the Cherokee would leave the settler in peace, 
and hasten to the defense of his wife and children. The 
success of such movements depended upon boldness and 
celerity, but those were the characteristics of Sevier's 
warfare. His heaviest blows were always struck in the 
heart of the enemy's country, and often when he was en- 
compassed by twenty times his own numbers. 

His preparations were now speedily made, and soon 
the whole region south of the French Broad was a forti- 
fied camp, in which each man had his post, and every 
one his allotted duty. Boys of fifteen were enrolled, and 
even women took to molding bullets and practicing with 
the rifle. But they were of the "home-guard," intended 
to act only in repulsing some determined assault upon 
the stations. Thus they stood to their arms, the whole 



174 JOHN SEVIER. 

of the scattered settlements ; but nearly two months 
rolled away before they had any hostile tidings from the 
Cherokees. The Indians had probably heard of Sevier's 
presence among the settlers, and had deferred the in- 
tended attack till they could make it in irresistible 
numbers. 

Meanwhile, the commissioners appointed by Con- 
gress, by an act of October 26, 1787, to treat with the 
Creeks, had not yet met those Indians. The Creeks con- 
tinued to be troublesome, and Georgia was fast embody- 
ing troops to march into their country, exterminate the 
" perfidious nation," or to make peace with them on no 
"other terms than a total surrender of their country and 
themselves." This the Governor communicated to Se- 
vier in a letter dated February 19, 1788, but which Sevier 
did not receive till early in April. Sevier's answer is 
here given, because it shows that at this time he had be- 
come fully apprised of the machinations of his enemies. 
It was as follows : 

"Franklin, April 10, 1788. 

"Sir: Yours of the 19th of February I had the 
honor to receive. In our present confused condition of 
affairs, I am not able to reply with that accuracy ajid 
satisfaction to your Excellency I could wish. Our coun- 
try is, at this time, almost in a state of anarchy, occa- 
sioned, as we suggest, by the North Carolinians stimulat- 
ing a party to act in a hostile manner against us. . . . 
It is with great pleasure I inform you that a great num- 



SEVIER AS AX OUTLAW. 175 

ber of our people discover a ready disposition to aid your 
State against your savage enemies ; and, let matters oc- 
cur as they may, if I am spared, # I purpose joining your 
army with a considerable number of volunteers, to act in 
concert with you against the Creeks, though many of our 
enemies are making use of every diabolical plan in their 
power in order to destroy our laudable intention. 

" I beg your Excellency will be so obliging as to ad- 
vise us from time to time of your intended operations ; 
and, should your campaign be procrastinated until the 
fall season, I am of opinion you will get a much greater 
number of men from this country." 

The first tidings from the Cherokees was an atrocious 
deed, at which the blood curdles. A settler named Kirk 
had built his cabin on the south side of Little River, 
about twelve miles from the present site of Knoxville. 
It was surrounded by the usual stockade, but was far too 
weak to resist attack from any considerable body of In- 
dians. Kirk had been warned to repair to some one of 
the larger stations, but he considered himself in no dan- 
ger, being on good terms with the Indians, and having 
always treated them with extreme kindness and hospi- 
tality ; so he continued to occupy his exposed position, 
with his mother, his wife, and nine children, all under 
fifteen years of age. His eldest son, a lad of sixteen, was 
away with Sevier at Hunter's Station. 

One morning in early May, Kirk had occasion to visit 
a neighbor a few miles distant, and in his absence there 



176 JOHN SEVIER. 

came to his cabin an Indian named Slim Tom, with 
whom the family was well acquainted. He asked for 
food ; it was given him, and he went away with many 
expressions of gratitude. This gratitude he showed by 
returning in about half an hour with fifty painted sav- 
ages. I need not detail what followed. Not one was 
spared — the aged grandmother, nor the young babe at 
the breast. All were remorselessly butchered ; and when 
Kirk returned, a few hours later, he beheld them — all 
who bore his name except the stripling I have mentioned 
— stretched, bloody and disfigured, on the grass in the 
door-yard of his dwelling. 

The mingled grief, and horror, and rage of this 
man — thus at one blow bereft of mother, and wife, and 
children — can only be conceived of by the imagination. 
Almost crazed by the calamity, he left his dead unburied 
on the ground, and with the speed of a deer rushed for 
help to Sevier at Hunter's Station. Sevier had heard 
such tales before, but this was one of peculiar atrocity. 
Instantly he sent out mounted scouts to ascertain if this 
was an isolated raid or an organized attack by a party 
belonging to a larger body, which had separated, and 
spread itself among the scattered settlements. At night 
the scouts returned, reporting no other trace of Indians 
except the trail of the murderers, which they had fol- 
lowed to the Little Tennessee, where it still went south- 
ward. 

Gathering his men together to the number of about 
four hundred, Sevier set out on the following morning 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 177 

for the heart of the Indian country ; and with him went 
young Kirk, and, as second in command, the Major 
Hubbard who was known as " the Indian-slayer.'' He fol- 
lowed the trail of the murderers, and so rapid was his 
march that early on the ensuing day he was fifty miles 
away, on the banks of the Hiwassee. Here he came 
upon a large town, filled with warriors, among whom the 
murderers of the Kirk family had taken refuge. With- 
out a moment's delay, Sevier rode into this town, and 
then began the work of retribution. Panic-stricken, the 
Indians soon fled, but numbers were shot down in the 
street of the town, and as they were attempting to escape 
by the river. Before noon every hut and every wigwam 
in the place was a mass of smoking cinders. 

Then Sevier turned his face toward the Little Ten- 
nessee and Tellico, where were the homes of Old Tassel, 
John Watts, and twelve hundred Ottari warriors. The 
towns were well-nigh deserted, but such men as were in 
them were either shot down or driven back to the mount- 
ains ; then the torch was applied to half a dozen villages, 
and soon all that was left of them were so many heaps 
of smoldering ruin. The small number of men he 
encountered satisfied Sevier that the bulk of the Ottari 
were away upon a raid against the settlements ; and leav- 
ing Hubbard and about two hundred men to complete 
the destruction he had begun, he hastened back with the 
remainder of his force to Hunter's Station. 

Hubbard was encamped on the south side of the 

Little Tennessee, and on the northern bank, near a 
17 



178 JOHN SEVIER. 

small stream still called Abraham's Creek, lived an 
old Indian named Abraham, who was known far and 
near as the friend of the white settlers. Before hostili- 
ties began he had said that, if his nation went to war, he 
should remain at home, and not lift a hand against his 
white brothers. Sevier was no sooner away than Hub- 
bard sent a messenger to this friendly Indian, inviting 
him to cross the river to his camp. Abraham came with 
hi3 son, and then Hubbard asked them to go to Old 
Tassel, and invite him to come there to a talk, for the 
whites desired to be at peace with the Cherokees. This 
they did ; and soon the Cherokee king appeared on the 
opposite bank of the river with five of his principal chief- 
tains — probably all of the " head-men " who were not 
away on the war-path. On seeing them, Hubbard raised 
a white flag, and invited them over to his encamp- 
ment. 

The Old Tassel knew Hubbard, and it is doubtful if 
he would have trusted him had he not supposed that 
Sevier was with the soldiery. It was generally known 
that Sevier had been leading the troops, and this ac- 
counted for the general panic which had everywhere 
been seen among the Cherokees. They feared the 
Franklin leader, but they trusted him implicitly. Old 
Tassel was anxious for peace, and, unsuspicious of treach- 
ery, he now crossed the river with his chieftains. He 
was met in a friendly manner by Hubbard, who told him 
that Sevier was away, but would soon return, and mean- 
while he and the chieftains had better wait for him in 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 179 

an Indian cabin, which, stood -near the bank of the 
river. 

The chieftains and the friendly Abraham had no 
sooner entered this cabin than a number of armed set- 
tlers noiselessly surrounded the building, so that escape 
from it became impossible. Then Hubbard and young 
Kirk entered the cabin, the latter with a naked toma- 
hawk in his hand — the same savage weapon which had 
slaughtered his mother, his brothers and sisters, and his 
aged grandmother. Hubbard folded his arms and looked 
at the Indians, in his glance the vengeful hate which had 
come to be the ruling element in his nature. But the 
lad did not wait for this signal. Instantly raising the 
tomahawk, he buried it in the brain of the nearest 
Indian, as he sat on the ground at one extremity of the 
half circle in which they had formed themselves. The 
others, seeing from this the fate which awaited them, 
cast their eyes upon the ground, and, without a word, 
bowed their heads to the stroke which had slaughtered 
their comrade. Soon their bodies were dragged from the 
hut and thrown unburied upon a pile of debris on the 
bank of the river. Thus ingloriously perished the peace- 
loving Rayetayah — known among the whites as Old Tas- 
sel — an able man, and by far the best king who within 
historic times had ruled over the Cherokees. 

Words can not describe the indignation and horror of 
Sevier when, returning on the following day, he learned 
that this dastardly deed had been committed. Bitterly 
he upbraided Hubbard and young Kirk, and the settlers 



180 JOHN SEVIER. 

who had abetted the atrocity. The answer of Hubbard 
and the others is not recorded ; but it is said that young 
Kirk told Sevier that, had he suffered at the murderous 
hands of the Indians as he had suffered, he would have 
done as he had done. Sevier was merely a volunteer 
leader, with only such power as was given him by the 
settlers. Almost unanimously they approved of Kirk's 
deed as an act of retributive justice, and therefore Sevier 
was powerless to punish it. 

There were not wanting enemies of Sevier who 
charged him with complicity in this crime, and with 
being conveniently absent to escape its responsibility ; 
but this was indignantly denied by Hubbard, who as- 
sumed the entire odium of the deed, and boasted that he 
would do the like again had one of his neighbors a like 
provocation. Writing on this subject, the historian Hay- 
wood says: " Sevier never acted with cruelty before or 
since ; he often commanded ; he was never accused of 
inhumanity : he could not have given his consent on this 
occasion. Considering existing circumstances, he could 
not maintain as much authority now as at other times ; 
he was proscribed and driven from his home. . . . They 
[the settlers] consulted only the exasperated feelings of 
the moment, and had never been instructed in the rules 
of refined warfare." 

This ill-advised and atrocious crime would naturally 
inflame the passions of the Cherokees to the highest 
pitch of frenzy. The bulk of the nation felt deeply 
wronged by the continued encroachments of the settlers ; 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 181 

but this, with one or two impatient outbreaks, they had 
borne for six years, restrained by the pacific counsels of 
Old Tassel, and by a fear of Nolichueky Jack and his 
four thousand riflemen. But now the blood of their 
leading chieftains had been most wickedly shed, and 
blood for blood was the cardinal doctrine of their religion 
— one of whose chief tenets was that the warrior who 
lost his life in avenging the slaughter of a kinsman was 
at once translated to the happy hunting-grounds, there 
to be a mighty chief forever. The head chieftain of the 
tribe was regarded as not merely the kinsman but the 
father of the whole people. The lifting of a hand against 
him was instant death to the most redoubtable warrior ; 
how much worse was his treacherous murder by a hated 
enemy ! The killing of Old Tassel was, therefore, a per- 
sonal wrong to every Cherokee, and the avenging of it a 
religious duty, which, if he failed to perform, the celes- 
tial hunting-ground would be closed against him forever. 
Hence, this one deed had created a nation of fanatics, 
who would rush into battle regardless of death, and in- 
tent only on the slaughter of the settlers. Moreover, the 
Cherokees would be sure to be secretly re-enforced by the 
Creeks, and abundantly supplied with arms and ammu- 
nition by the Spaniards, who now were intensely exasper- 
ated against the settlers because of Kobertson's decided 
rejection of their overtures for an alliance. Hard beset 
as he was, the intrepid pioneer had refused their pro- 
posals, disdainfully saying ; "The Spaniards are devils; 
and the worst devil among them is the half-Spaniard, 



182 JOHN SEVIER. 

half-Frenchman, half-Scotchman, and altogether Creek 
scoundrel — McGillivray ! " 

Thus had the unwise killing of Old Tassel greatly in- 
creased the difficulty of the task which Sevier had under- 
taken. Never before, it seems to me, were the odds so 
largely against him ; not when, with but forty men, he 
repulsed Old Oconostota, nor when, with only nine hun- 
dred and fifty, he scaled and carried the rugged escarp- 
ment of King's Mountain. For active operations he had 
in reality but about two hundred and fifty men — the 
veterans who had voluntarily followed him from the 
older counties. The seven hundred others were settlers, 
who, though zealous, brave, and ready to fight to the 
death, were an unstable force— with him to-day but away 
to-morrow — drawn off by the first rumor of danger to 
the station which held their wives and children. Never, 
at any one time, was Sevier at the head of more than 
four hundred. 

But, surrounded by such disheartening circumstances, 
never once did Sevier's courage fail him, never once 
did he call one of his old comrades to his aid, or ask for 
help from the older counties. His genius seemed to rise 
with the occasion, and a careful study of his life fails to 
exhibit him ever so truly great as when, a proscribed and 
ruined man, he forgot his own interests, and, without 
hope of pay or fame or other reward, he threw him- 
self, almost alone, a forlorn hope between those out- 
lawed settlers and their certain destruction. He seems 
to have regarded his self-imposed and herculean task 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 183 

simply as a duty ; and he went about it with cheerful de- 
liberation, adjusting his means to his ends with a sort of 
mathematical precision which made success a foregone 
conclusion. This exact forecasting of results, this 
ability to achieve great ends with small means, were 
the most characteristic traits of Sevier's military 
genius. They enabled him, with never more than a 
thousand men, to do a great work in American 
history. 

Now for five long months Sevier was every day in the 
saddle— sometimes with forty men, sometimes with four 
hundred — striking blow after blow, and with every blow 
totally discomfiting the enemy. Recorded in detail, his 
exploits in this campaign would fill a volume. I can re- 
count only a few — just enough to show the character of 
the conflict. 

After seeing that the bodies of Old Tassel and his 
chieftains had received decent burial, Sevier led his 
troop rapidly back to Hunter's Station, for he knew that, 
as soon as the Cherokees had made their first wail over 
the dead, the whole nation would swarm upon the settle- 
ments. His first step was to dispatch messengers to the 
various stations, warning them to be on their guard, to 
observe strict discipline, and on no account to venture 
out either singly or in small parties without the utmost 
caution. If threatened with attack, they were to apprise 
him at once by swift messengers, and to this end he 
should keep them advised of his movements. It had 
been well had his instructions been observed ; but with 



184 JOHN SEVIER. 

most men familiarity with danger breeds a contempt of 
it, and it was so with these settlers. 

It was not long before all of the scattered stations 
were attacked almost simultaneously ; and then Sevier 
became well-nigh ubiquitous, hastening from one to an- 
other, and from all driving off the savages before they 
had done any material damage. Then came a lull in the 
savage operations. It began to be thought that the 
Indians had withdrawn into their own country, and a 
party of twenty-one settlers ventured across the Little 
Tennessee, on a scouting expedition. Incautiously they 
entered an open field, when they were suddenly sur- 
rounded by a large body of savages. Sixteen of the 
settlers were shot on the spot, one was wounded and 
taken prisoner, and the remaining four were chased to 
the gates of the fort on the present site of Knoxville. 
Then the Indians turned back to make an assault on 
Houston Station. 

Five families were housed at this fort — all told, per- 
haps forty persons, only ten of whom could handle a 
rifle. With the first alarm, one of the riflemen was sent 
off to Sevier, while the others essayed to defend the place 
till his arrival. The Indians quickly surrounded them, 
and soon it rained bullets on the little inclosure. One 
of the garrison incautiously exposed himself for a mo- 
ment, and in that moment an Indian ball pierced his 
brain, and sent him to the great accounting. But the re- 
maining eight fought on, the men firing and the women 
loading the rifles and molding the bullets. Their fire 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 185 

was rapid, and their aim certain, and many a savage fell 
never to rise again ; but the Indians fought with a 
desperation never before shown by the Cherokees. At 
length the tilling between the logs was shot away, and 
every now and then a ball came into the building, and in 
dangerous proximity to the occupants. A young woman, 
subsequently the wife of Senior S. Doak, D. D., was 
kneeling by the fire, molding bullets, when an Indian 
ball passed over her head, and, bounding back from the 
wall, fell at her feet. It was flattened by the blow, and 
catching it up she molded it anew, and, handing it to 
the nearest rifleman, said : " Here is a ball run out of 
Indian lead ; send it back to them as quickly as possible. 
It is their own ; let them have it in welcome ! " The 
conflict lasted for nearly an hour, when, discouraged 
with their loss of life, the Indians suddenly drew off 
from the station. 

Sevier was twenty-five miles away, but, setting out at 
once, he met the Indians on their retreat. They num- 
bered over a hundred, and only a few men were with 
him ; but they no sooner sounded his well-known yell 
than the savages broke and scattered in all directions. 
Sevier determined on pursuit, for he had meanwhile 
heard of the massacre at the Little Tennessee, and such 
deeds he always punished by a speedy invasion. Going 
on to the station, he sent out messengers to call in his 
men, and on the following day, with Captain Evans and 
about two hundred men, he invaded the Indian country, 
laying waste all in his pathway. At Chilhowee he met a 



186 JOHN SEVIER. 

large force of savages, whom he at once attacked and 
routed, killing thirteen outright, who were left on the 
ground, while a larger number of wounded were borne 
away by the Indians. Then he returned again to the 
protection of the settlements. 

For more than a month the fight was around every 
station, and everywhere at the critical time appeared 
Sevier with his little band of riflemen. Day and night 
he was in motion, and it is said that now for one whole 
week he never for one hour was out of his saddle. 
Few lives were lost among the settlers, for they had 
learned caution ; but the bones of many a Cherokee were 
left to bleach in the summer's sun far away from the 
resting-places of his ancestors. The upper hunting- 
grounds are pleasant in the dreams of the untutored 
savage ; but the instinct of life is strong in him, and 
'Chucky Jack the Cherokees had long regarded as under 
the special protection *)f the Invisible Powers. It was 
they who turned aside the bullets which were aimed at 
him, and fighting with him, was therefore merely a strug- 
gle with destiny. The contest was hopeless ; so at last, 
beaten and crest-fallen, John Watts, Double-Head, and 
the Bloody Fellow drew off their dispirited followers, 
and led them back to their mountain fastnesses. 

They had no sooner gone than Sevier resolved upon 
another invasion of their country. The Cherokees must 
be made to feel the full bitterness of the war they had 
brought upon the settlers ; and, taking with him only 
Cozby and Evans, and a hundred and forty men, he 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. " 187 

plunged at once into the heart of the Cherokee nation. 
It seems foolhardy in the extreme, this onslaught of but 
a handful upon three thousand infuriated savages ; but 
Sevier knew his soldiers, and they knew him, and every 
one of them believed in his invincibility. It was just 
such apparently desperate enterprises that had given the 
Cherokees the superstitious belief that Sevier was under 
supernatural protection. Sevier knew this, and counted 
upon it as an auxiliary more potent than a thousand 

rifles. 

Crossing the Little Tennessee under the cover of 
night, Sevier made a rapid march to .the tall Unakas, 
and, scaling them, fell with fire and sword upon the 
Valley towns, where dwelt fully one third of the Chero- 
kee nation. He spread havoc and death through all that 
region, shooting down every man he met, and taking 
none prisoners. Everywhere his route was marked by 
smoking villages ; and everywhere, without making so 
much as a single stand, the Indians fled before him. 
Then, the work of destruction finished, he turned his 
face homeward. 

He had now been ten days in the Indian country, 
and he knew that the whole nation would rise in his rear 
and attempt to intercept his march to the settlements. 
Destiny might be on his side, but here, the Cherokees 
saw, was a chance to take destiny at a disadvantage, 
amid rugged defiles and mountain-passes, where ten men 
might bar the way of a hundred. John Watts was a 
half-breed, and less superstitious than his people. The 



188 JOHN SEVIER. 

eagle of the pale-faces was in a trap, and, if he could but 
capture or destroy him, it was certain, now that Old Tas- 
sell was dead, that he — John Watts, at the age of thirty- 
five — would become the archimagus of the nation. It 
was the highest object that could be presented to Chero- 
kee ambition ; so "Watts called in his warriors to the 
number of eight hundred, and lay in wait for Sevier at 
the point where he would attempt to recross the Unakas. 
But Sevier had counted on this contingency, and he 
moved with extreme caution as he approached the foot 
of the mountains. 

The usual route was by a narrow pass along the bank 
of the Little Tennessee, where it breaks through the lofty 
range amid scenery that is grand beyond description. 
The river here flows over a rocky channel, lined with 
precipitous cliffs, under which the path winds for a 
fourth of a mile, only wide enough for a single horse- 
man. Here Watts had posted his men, concealed among 
the rocks, three hundred on one side of the river and 
two hundred on the other, while another force of two 
hundred lay in wait at the outlet of the defile. Hemmed 
in on one hand by the tall cliffs, on the other by the deep 
and rapid river, the moment the white men entered the 
pass they would be a broad target for the Indian rifles ; 
and, if any ran the gantlet in safety, they would be 
mown down by the two hundred who were lying in am- 
bush at the outlet beyond. Thus destruction to all 
would have been certain ; not a man who entered that 
narrow pass would have lived to tell the story. The 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 189 

route was the one Sevier would naturally have taken ; 
but, to make sure of his falling into the trap, Watts 
placed another hundred men some distance in advance of 
the pass, with orders to fall back on Sevier's approach, 
and thus lure him on to destruction. Then, sure of his 
prey, Watts waited the approach of Sevier, not dreaming 
that he would attempt to climb the steep and rugged 
mountain on horseback. 

But the cunning of Watts overreached itself, and 
served merely to warn Sevier of his danger. It is proba- 
ble that he would not have essayed the perilous passage 
under any circumstances, for he was as cautious as he was 
bold ; but, experienced as he was in Indian tactics, this 
decoy party plainly disclosed to him the ambuscade. 
Paying no sort of attention to the retreating Indians, and 
striking at once for the foot of the mountain, Sevier led 
his men up its precipitous side, over slippery rocks and fal- 
len trees, and through tangled undergrowth, where never 
before horseman had traveled. They moved rapidly, but 
often had to dismount to cut their way or to help their 
horses up some steep acclivity ; and it was between sun- 
set and dark before they stood upon the summit of the 
mountain. Here they halted for a while to rest their 
jaded beasts ; but it was not long before they began the 
equally toilsome descent of the northern slope. Evans 
was one of the most trusted of Sevier's captains, and he 
was placed in the rear, that being the position requiring 
the greatest vigilance. Now, when Evans had gone 

about two hundred yards down the mountain, one of his 
18 



190 JOHN" SEVIER. 

men requested permission to return for some small arti- 
cle he had left behind at the halting-place on the sum- 
mit. At the summit the man heard the forward glide of 
a large body moving through the underbrush, and, has- 
tening to Sevier, apprised him of the danger. At once 
every rifleman was ordered to dismount and unsling his 
rifle, in readiness for immediate action. 

Thus they went down the mountain, in momentary ex- 
pectation of attack, leading their horses, and picking their 
way among rocks and precipices, with no light but that 
of the dying moon struggling through flying clouds and 
through the thick, overhanging branches of the forest. 
At their every step they heard the steady glide of the eight 
hundred savages ; but, unmolested, they at last reached 
the foot of the mountain. Here the country was still 
broken by ravines and encumbered with rocks and mat- 
ted undergrowth. It was no fit field for a battle ; there- 
fore every man was ordered to mount, and they sped 
away to an open place about ten miles distant, on the 
plains of Tellico. Here the riflemen went into camp, 
and, a double force of sentinels being placed to guard 
against surprise, they cooked their suppers, and then, 
overpowered with fatigue, sank into such sleep as is apt 
to follow a day of toilsome marching. But no sleep 
came to Sevier. Soon the sentries reported that the In- 
dians were cautiously encircling the encampment ; but 
he let his men sleep on, while he, with only Oozby and 
Evans, walked the picket-rounds all the night, intent 
upon every sound that came from the near-by forest. He 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 191 

expected an attack just before clay, when men sleep the 
most soundly ; but the morning came without any alarm 
from the savages. They were eight hundred to his one 
hundred and forty ; but their hearts failed them. John 
"Watts could not inspirit them to an attack, and soon Se- 
vier led his force unmolested back to the settlements, 
with not a man of it so much as wounded. 

Chagrined at this second escape of the great eagle of 
the pale-faces, John Watts now made a determined effort 
to arouse the Cherokees for another descent upon the 
settlements. Should a great nation, he said, be beaten 
back by a handful of white men ? What was 'Chucky 
Jack more than other men that the bullets should dodge 
him ? North Carolina had outlawed him ; the Great 
Council of the pale-faces was against him ; and should 
he — one outlawed man — make women of the entire 
Cherokee people ? No ! let the whole nation rise, and 
drive these white men beyond the Big Pigeon ; and let 
them not rest, day or night, till they had taken ven- 
geance for the murder of Old Tassel. 

And the whole nation rose, and fell again in over- 
whelming numbers upon the French Broad settlements. 
Again, and for three long months, the whole region was 
a battle-field, and again was Sevier everywhere perform- 
ing prodigies of valor. From station to station he rode 
by night and by day, and everywhere he rode there were 
battle and victory. His exploits during this period can 
be likened only to those of some knight-errant of the 
middle ages ; but neither in history nor in fiction do I 



192 JOHN SEVIER. 

know of anything that equals this marvelous campaign 
of the border hero ! The fame of it crossed the rivers, 
and awoke a thrill of pride among the old soldiers, who 
adored him ; and it even swept over the mountains, 
and became subject of comment by the two journals 
which then shed a dim political light upon benighted 
North Carolina. One of these,* published at Ealeigh, 
had the following account of one of his exploits, 
and, as it is characteristic of them all, it is here 
copied : 

"On the 21st of September a large body of the ene- 
my, not less than two hundred, attacked SherrelPs Sta- 
tion late in the evening. Sevier that day, with forty 
horsemen, was out ranging, and came on the Indians' 
trail, making toward the inhabitants ; he immediately 
advanced after them, and opportunely arrived before the 
fort when the Indians were carrying on a furious attack. 
On coming in view of the place, he drew up his troop in 
close order, made known his intention in a short speech 
to relieve the garrison or fall in the attempt, and asked 
who was willing to follow him. All gave unanimous 
consent ; and, at a given signal, made a charge on the 
enemy as they were busily employed in setting fire to a 
barn and other out-buildings. The Indians gave way 
and immediately retired from the place, and the gallant 
little band of heroes reached the fort, to the great joy of 
the besieged. This exploit was performed under cover 



* " North Carolina State Gazette." 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 193 

of the night, and, conformably to the Governor of Frank- 
lin's usual good fortune, not a man of his party was 
hurt." 

Before this period, Sevier's old comrades along the 
Holston and Watauga had clamored to be led to his aid ; 
but this Governor Johnston could not permit, for it 
would be an infraction of the treaty of Hopewell. At 
last, however, he, in a manner, gave way to the pressure 
by consenting to an expedition against the Chickamau- 
gas. These Indians were Cherokees, and had been active 
in the attacks on the French Broad settlers ; but they 
were a horde of lawless banditti, with a hand against 
every man, and war upon them was at any time justifi- 
able ; besides, Martin had said to the Governor that they 
could "be easily driven out of that country." 

Accordingly, Martin called his men together, to the 
number of about four hundred and fifty, for a descent 
upon the Chickamaugas. The settlers rendezvoused at 
White's Fort, now Knoxville — nearly all of them old 
soldiers of Sevier, and under such of his former officers 
as Colonels Love and Kennedy. They were a fine body 
of men, trained to Indian fighting ; and as they passed 
through the French Broad country the hearts of the 
settlers must have beat high with hope, for with less 
than half the number of these same men Sevier had 
put to rout the two thousand Chickamaugas. Surely 
with such a force Martin would be able to make short 
work of the pestiferous gang, and thus relieve the settle- 
ments from their midnight marauding. 



194 JOHN SEVIER. 

Martin crossed the Hiwassee, and then marched di- 
rectly to the Chickamauga towns on the Tennessee, near 
the present site of Chattanooga. On his approach the 
Indians deserted the nearest town, and fell back to the 
point where the river breaks through the Cumberland 
Mountain. Here they made a stand, and were attacked 
by the troops in an open field between the bluff and the 
river. Martin's men fought desperately, but, being 
badly led, were soon driven back with the loss of three 
of their bravest captains, who fell mortally wound- 
ed. Martin attempted to rally them to a second attack, 
but all but sixty refused his lead ; and thus the expedi- 
tion resulted in disastrous failure, not because the men 
would not fight, but because they would not with him as 
their leader. Then he led them ingloriously back to 
their homes, and the expedition had no further result 
than to inspirit the Cherokees to a renewed attack upon 
the settlers. Colonel Joseph Brown, subsequently an 
officer under Jackson, but then a boy of sixteen, and a 
prisoner among the Chickamaugas, speaks as follows of 
this event and its consequences, in a narrative he wrote 
at the request of General Zolli coffer, of Nashville, and 
which is now in possession of the Tennessee Historical 
Society : "At one time a Colonel Martin got to Chatta- 
nooga, within twenty miles of where I lived ; but the 
Indians killed three of his captains, and he killed only 
one Shawnee and one negro. No Cherokees were killed ; 
but they raised an army of three thousand men — borrow- 
ing one thousand Creeks, to go with fifteen hundred 



SEVIER AS AN OUTLAW. 195 

Cherokees on foot, and fiye hundred mounted Cherokees, 
many of whom were half-breeds and dressed like white 
men. They kept [these last] ahead of the army, and 
white men who met them thought them a scouting 
party of whites, and were by this scheme readily taken 
prisoners. Several men were taken in this way the day 
they got to Gillespie's Fort. Their object in raising the 
army was to drive all the whites from the south side of 
the French Broad." 

This new invasion also Sevier beat back ; and, having 
done so, he made another of his unexampled raids into 
the Indian country, going on this occasion down the 
Coosa River as far as the present town of Rome, in 
Georgia. Again he returned without the loss of a man, 
either killed or wounded. 

This last invasion, more wide-spread in destructiveness 
than the previous ones, broke completely the spirit of the 
Cherokees. Even John Watts, the most indomitable of 
their chieftains, said to his warriors : " The wind and the I 
fire fight for the great eagle of the pale-faces. We can 
no longer contend with him. From his high station in 
the clouds he sees our exposed places ; and when he 
swoops down, his hot breath blasts our corn-fields and 
consumes our wigwams. His flight is like the wind ; his 
blow like the thunderbolt. Who can stand before him ? 
He claims the French Broad lands. He will be our 
friend if we let his people plant their corn in peace. He 
speaks well. Let it be so ; for it is the voice of the 
Great Spirit." 



196 JOHN SEVIER. 

This was the end of the war upon the French Broad 
settlers. It had lasted actively for five months, the set- 
tlers having to meet not less than ten times their own 
number of well-armed and infuriated savages. Having 
thus secured peace to the border, Sevier, in the latter 
part of October, returned to his family, from whom 
he had now been separated for more than half a year. 
In this period he had not only saved the French Broad 
settlers, but had rolled back an invasion from North 
Carolina, which, had it been successful, would have 
brought upon the frontier the whole strength of the 
Southwestern Indians. He had done this; and yet, at 
this very time, as we shall soon see, North Carolina was 
lending her aid to a plot for his destruction. 



CHAPTER IX. 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 



While the fame of Sevier was thus ringing through- 
out the eastern counties, and all men were watching in 
enthusiastic admiration the unequaled valor and amazing 
generalship by which he beat back and finally subdued 
the infuriated Cherokees, it seems incredible that one 
man could be found, within hearing of his deeds, who 
could construe them into treason against North Carolina. 
But, nevertheless, it was so ; and that man was the Gov- 
ernor of that Commonwealth. Martin had followed up 
his insinuation that Sevier was levying troops to war 
upon the citizens by letters to Governor Johnston, in 
which he made adroit misrepresentations of Sevier's con- 
duct, charging him with barbarous and inhuman acts 
(such as the killing of Old Tassel), and with making un- 
provoked war upon the Indians, when they desired to be 
at peace with the white people. Technically, Sevier may 
have been an insurgent, both against North Carolina and 
the United States, inasmuch as he was obstructing the 
execution of the treaty of Hopewell ; but, to listen to 



198 JOHN SEVIER. 

such a charge, the Governor had to forget that blood is 
thicker than water, and to shut his eyes to the fact that 
every blow struck by Sevier was in the interest of hu- 
manity. He heard Martin's falsehoods in silence from 
March until late in July, and then he wrote that worthy 
as follows : 

"Sevier, from the state of his conduct set forth in 
your letter, is incorrigible, and I fear we shall have no 
peace in your quarter till he is proceeded against to the 
last extremity. " 

At the same time the Governor gave directions for 
Sevier's arrest, in the following letter to Judge David 
Campbell of the Superior Court : 

" Hillsborough, 29th July, 1788. 
" Sik : It has been represented to the Executive that 
John Sevier, who styles himself Captain-General of the 
State of Franklin, has been guilty of high treason, in 
levying troops to oppose the laws and government of 
this State, and has, with an armed force, put to death 
several good citizens. If these facts shall appear to you 
by the affidavit of credible persons, you will issue your 
warrant to apprehend the said John Sevier, and in case 
he can not be sufficiently secured for trial in the district 
of Washington, order him to be committed to the public 
gaol" [over the mountains]. 

Well knowing that Sevier did not style himself " Cap- 
tain-General of the State of Franklin," and had not 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 199 

"with an armed force put to death several good citi- 
zens," Judge Campbell promptly refused to issue the 
required order of arrest, giving his reasons to the Gov- 
ernor. These reasons do not appear to have been satis- 
factory to that functionary, for he at once gave similar 
instructions to Judge Spencer, who resided over the 
mountains, but was about to proceed to Jonesboro to 
hold a session of court in connection with Campbell. 
The North Carolina judge issued the warrant, and it was 
in readiness for execution when, after more than six 
months' absence, Sevier returned to his family. 

At home, Sevier found that his wife had recovered 
his negroes, paid his debts, and got his domestic affairs 
generally into a satisfactory condition. Court was then 
in session, and, after a few days spent at home, he visited 
the county-seat, to meet his old friends and acquaint- 
ances. He was cordially greeted by all, and he heard 
nothing of the warrant, because its issue had been kept a 
profound secret among the few who were plotting his 
destruction. No attempt was made to arrest him while 
he was in Jonesboro, for his enemies well knew that the 
effort made publicly would be futile, and might result in 
bloodshed. He must be taken unawares, suddenly, and 
under cover of night, or the whole country would rise 
for his protection. Hence, they watched for an oppor- 
tunity to take him secretly, and hurry him over the 
mountains before tidings of his arrest could get abroad 
among the people. Such an opportunity soon presented 
itself. Both Tipton and Martin were at Jonesboro — the 



200 JOHN SEVIER. 

latter holding a muster of his recently defeated militia — 
but Sevier was unsuspicious of danger. He appeared 
openly in all public places, and late in the evening rode a 
short distance out of town to spend the night with a 
friend. There he would be remote from all assistance, 
and could be easily captured. 

Sevier had no sooner gone than Tipton got together 
eight or ten desperadoes for the purpose of arresting 
him ; and, having seen this done, Martin hastened to the 
house of a Colonel Robinson, one of Sevier's friends, that 
he might be able to show an alibi, and thus escape the 
odium of the transaction. As Tipton rode out of town 
with his squad, he met Colonel Love, a friend of Sevier's, 
but then second in command to Tipton in the militia of 
Washington County. Tipton invited Love to join them, 
and he went along in hopes to prevent bloodshed. The 
party silently surrounded the house where Sevier was, 
and about the break of day rapped at the door for admit- 
tance. The lady of the house soon appeared, and, seeing 
Tipton and his armed posse, she conjectured the object 
of their visit, and, planting herself in the doorway, re- 
fused to admit them. Then ensued an unseemly strug- 
gle between the lady and Tipton, which caused an up- 
roar loud enough to arouse Sevier, who slept in a remote 
part of the dwelling. Gathering at once that his ene- 
mies were in pursuit of him, Sevier hastily threw on his 
clothing, and passed out of the rear door. He soon en- 
countered Colonel Love, and, taking him by the hand, 
said, "I surrender to you." Love led him to where 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 201 

Tipton was still struggling with the lady of the house. 
A drawn pistol was in Tipton's hand, but whether he 
had threatened to use it upon the lady is not stated. In 
a towering rage he now turned upon Sevier and threat- 
ened to shoot him. Love prevented this, and after a 
time quieted the irascible gentleman. Then Sevier's 
horse was brought up, and he was led away from the 
house. Soon afterward iron handcuffs were placed upon 
him, and Tipton left him under guard of a deputy-sher- 
iff and two of the desperadoes, with orders to convey 
him at once to Morganton, and lower down in North 
Carolina, if it should seem to be necessary to prevent a 
rescue. 

Tipton had no sooner gone than Love persuaded the 
deputy-sheriff to remove the handcuffs from Sevier, and 
to send to his wife a message, which Sevier had written, 
apprising her of his arrest, and requesting her to forward 
to him some money and clothing. Love remained with 
the party until these articles were received, and then re- 
turned to his home. 

The sheriff's party set out at once for North Carolina, 
and encamped that night on the summit of the Iron 
Mountains. Here one of the guards named Gorley in- 
formed Sevier that they were instructed to kill him, and 
that George French, the other guard, would doubtless 
attempt it before they were out of the mountains. Se- 
vier was unarmed and at their mercy, and he determined 
to make his escape at the first possible moment. The 
opportunity presented itself on the following morning, 
19 



202 JOHN SEVIER. 

and, putting spurs to his horse, he broke away into the 
forest. French was better mounted than Sevier, and the 
latter's horse soon became entangled in the branches of 
a tree, which had been thrown down by a hurricane. 
While he was in this position French overtook him, and, 
drawing his pistol, discharged it so near to Sevier's face 
that he was burned by the powder. But the discharge 
was harmless ; for, fortunately, the bullet had fallen out 
of the barrel in the act of drawing the weapon. By this 
time the other guards had come up, and the deputy-sher- 
iff pledged his word that no further assault should be 
made upon Sevier if he did not again attempt to escape. 
Without further incident the party arrived at Morgan- 
ton, and Sevier was delivered into the custody of William 
Morrison, the Sheriff of Burke County. 

That the guards had instructions to murder Sevier 
was generally believed by his friends ; but it should be 
borne in mind that the charge rested solely upon the 
unsupported word of a characterless desperado. Violent 
and reckless as Tipton was, there are no grounds for 
the belief that he would instigate a deliberate murder ; 
therefore the order, if such there were, must have ema- 
nated from Martin, whose smooth villainy might have 
been equal to such an atrocity. 

Meanwhile, tidings of the capture of Sevier became 
noised abroad among the frontier people. Such excite- 
ment was never known in Jonesboro as when the dwell- 
ers there were told in the early morning that Nolichucky 
Jack had been kidnapped overnight, placed in irons, 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 203 

and spirited oyer the mountains, to be tried for high, 
treason by the State authorities of North Carolina. 
To quote the somewhat high-flown language of a docu- 
ment of the period : "Had the destroying angel passed 
through the land, and destroyed the first-born in every 
dwelling, the feelings of the hardy frontiersmen would 
not have been more aroused ! Had the chiefs and 
warriors of the whole Cherokee nation fallen upon and 
butchered the defenseless settlers, the spirit of retali- 
ation and revenge would not have been more strongly 
awakened in their bosoms ! They had suffered with him, 
fought under him ; with him shared the dangers and 
privations of a frontier life ; and they were not the 
spirits to remain inactive when their friend was in 
danger." 

Sevier was the idol of the frontier people. His cap- 
tivating manners, generous public spirit, great personal 
bravery, and high soldierly qualities, had won him the 
admiration and love of every man, woman, and child in 
the Territory. For years, without pay or reward, he 
had stood sentinel over their homes, had guided them 
through terrible dangers, and led them to wonderful 
victories ; and now, when a hand that should have been 
friendly was lifted against his life, every man felt it as a 
blow aimed at his own person, an outrage that could be 
wiped out only in blood. So every one thought and felt 
as he shouldered his trusty rifle and hurried to the ren- 
dezvous to which all resorted in times of danger. The 
tidings had flown with the wind ; men came together as 



204 JOHN SEVIEK. 

if by instinct, and before nightfall of the second day 
fully two thousand dauntless backwoodsmen, armed to 
the teeth, had gathered at Jonesboro, determined to 
rescue their beloved commander, or "to leave their 
bones to bleach on the sand-hills of North Carolina." 
For a time it seemed as if nothing could hinder a hos- 
tile invasion of the "mother-State," and the blood- 
shed and lasting animosity that would inevitably have 
followed. 

But wiser and more moderate counsels at last pre- 
vailed. Among the two thousand who assembled at 
Jonesboro were Judge Campbell, Generals Cocke and 
Kennedy, Major Cozby, Captain Evans, the sons of 
Sevier, and nearly all of his former captains. The 
people were accustomed to follow these men, and they 
now assented cordially to the suggestion of Cozby that 
the leading officers should retire to some quiet spot, 
and concert measures suited to the emergency. Accord- 
ingly, about a hundred met in the court-house some 
hours after dark, with closed door and windows. Camp- 
bell was the first to speak. He advised moderation, and 
the avoiding of any act that would bring about a collision 
with North Carolina ; but his voice was soon drowned by 
cries of "Down with North Carolina!" "We want a 
collision with her l" " We have too long submitted to 
her tyranny ! " and other exclamations of a similar char- 
acter. Amid this uproar Cozby mounted upon one of 
the benches and waved his hand for silence. He was a 
man of huge frame, marked and swarthy features, and 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 205 

an air of inflexible resolution. He seldom spoke, and 
when he did speak his sentences were short and pithy, 
and his words had something of the ping that follows 
the leap of the rifle-bullet. Owing partly to the decided 
friendship of Sevier, and partly to Cozby's own character, 
his opinions had much weight with his fellow-officers. 
He now said that moderation and conciliation would be 
wasted upon North Carolina ; that she had thrown down 
the gauntlet, and the western men would take it up, if 
they had a spark of manhood in them ; yet he would not 
advise a resort to open force to rescue their general. No 
doubt such a course would succeed, but it would bring 
about a collision disastrous to both sides. Better, some- 
times, than open force was secret stratagem. Give him 
the general's fast mare, and half a dozen men of his own 
selection, and he would undertake to have their leader 
back within a week ; or, failing to do it, he would 
put North Carolina to the expense of burying James 
Cozby. 

"How will you do it?" inquired a number of 
voices. 

"I don't know ; and, if I did know, I wouldn't tell 
you," answered Cozby; "but I will do it, if I have to 
set fire to Morganton, and rake the general out from the 
cinders !" 

" I'll be one of your men ! " now cried Captain Ev- 
ans, and his words were echoed in a chorus of nearly all 
present. Cozby declined the volunteered aid, remarking 
that his men were already chosen and his plan formed, 



206 JOHN SEVIER. 

subject only to such alteration as might be forced upon 
him by circumstances. All he asked of those present was 
absolute secrecy. This was assented to by the whole as- 
sembly, and then the meeting broke up, and the outside 
gathering dispersed to their homes, wondering much 
what could be the secret plan that their captains had 
adopted for the rescue of their beloved leader. 

The enterprise was desperate in the extreme, and al- 
together worthy of all that is known of Cozby ; but it is 
said not to have originated with him, but with the heroic 
woman who for thirty-five years was the honored wife of 
John Sevier. The plan of it could have originated only 
in a most heroic soul, altogether devoted to Sevier, and 
such a soul had Catherine Sherrill. There is a tradition 
of her in the family, which, as it illustrates her charac- 
ter, may be appropriately related in this connection. It 
is said that in the first year of her married life she went 
one day with a poor neighbor to obtain for her some pro- 
visions from the smoke-house of her husband's dwell- 
ing on the Nolichucky. Her hand was upon the wooden 
latch of the smoke-house door, and she was about to 
open it, when she was arrested by a sudden cry from the 
woman with her, who fell upon her knees, threw her 
arms about her feet, and burst into an hysterical fit of 
weeping. The woman was the wife of a wretched rene- 
gade — a desperate Tory and horse-thief — named Dyke, 
who dared not appear by daylight in the settlements. 
For an entire year he had neglected his wife and chil- 
dren, between whom and starvation nothing had stood 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 207 

but the bounty of Sevier, whose unstinted hand was ever 
open to the needy and unfortunate. Regularly during 
all of that time the wife of Dyke had come to Catherine 
for the daily food of herself and her little ones, and 
she was there now for her accustomed measure of meal 
and flitch of bacon. 

With her hand still upon the smoke-house door, 
Catherine turned, and, bending her eyes in inquiring 
surprise upon the weeping woman, asked, "What is the 
matter ? " "0 madam ! " sobbed the woman, still clasp- 
ing her feet, " I can not tell you, for I love my husband. 
He has fallen into bad ways ; but he was once very good 
and kind to me." Then her speech was broken by an- 
other hysterical fit of weeping. Catherine tried to soothe 
her, spoke to her gentle words of hope and encourage- 
ment, and soon the woman found speech again. "0 
madam !" she said, "you are so good, so kind, how can 
I let any harm come to you or your husband ? " " My 
husband ! " cried Catherine ; " what of my husband ? 
What danger threatens him ? Speak, woman ! " In her 
look and tone was that which would brook no denial. 
The woman hesitated, as if torn by conflicting emotions ; 
but then, awed into speech by the intense passion of 
Catherine, she told her in broken sentences that her hus- 
band Dyke had returned to the settlement, and was at 
that moment, with half a dozen other desperadoes, con- 
cealed in her cabin, where she had overheard them plan 
the murder of Sevier, while he slept that very night 
with unfastened doors in his unguarded dwelling. 



208 JOHN SEVIER. 

Within an hour the ruffians were captured, and be- 
fore the sun arose upon another day Dyke had gone to 
give account for a worse than wasted life to a higher 
than human tribunal. With tears Catherine pleaded for 
his life, and for her sake, and that of the ruffian's un- 
happy wife, Sevier would have saved him. But his fate 
was taken out of Sevier's hauds by some of the settlers, 
who broke at midnight into the cabin where the ruffian 
was confined, and hanged him to a near-by tree. It was 
on the eve of King's Mountain, and the exasperation 
against the Tories was at its highest.* That turning 
battle of the Revolution would not have been fought, 
had Sevier fallen by the hands of these ruffians. So, 
on what seem to us trivial events, often hang conse- 
quences which are felt far along the centuries. 

Thus was Sevier's life saved by the devotion of his 
wife; and now again she came to his aid when it was 
again endangered. She no sooner knew of his capture 
than she conceived a plan for his rescue, and, sending for 
Cozby, she besought him to join two of Sevier's sons in 
carrying it into execution. To this Cozby promptly 
assented ; but, deeming a force of three men somewhat 
too weak to storm an entire State, he chose three more — 
Captain Nathaniel Evans, already mentioned, and Jesse 
Greene and John Gibson, favorite captains of Sevier, 



* This account, written by her father, the late Col. A. W. Putnam, 
of Nashville, was communicated to me by Mrs. Julia P. Perkins, a great- 
grand-daughter of John Sevier and Catherine Sherrill. 



OVERTHROW ATSTD TRIUMPH. 209 

and men of tried coolness and daring. When the Jones- 
boro meeting broke up, these six men rode rapidly off to 
Sevier's home on the Nolichucky. There they passed 
the night, and early on the following morning, with the 
blessing and Godspeed of the "Bonnie Kate," they set 
out on their hazardous expedition. Not many hours 
later Colonel Love descried a party of half a dozen finely 
mounted men, leading Sevier's favorite mare, and climb- 
ing rapidly the mountain-path which the prisoner and 
his guard had taken on their way to Morganton. The 
presence of the led animal disclosed to Love the object 
of the expedition ; but he kept his own counsel, and let 
them ride on unmolested. 

In the height of the excitement there were threats of 
hanging Tipton ; and, had not that gentleman remained 
for a time in seclusion, it is probable that violence would 
have been done him. As it was, he escaped summary 
justice only in consequence of the moderate counsels of 
the most influential of Sevier's friends. Martin, who 
had been the prime mover in the outrage, was not visited 
with the same public indignation ; for, like the mole, he 
had burrowed underground. However, he was soon to 
learn that men who work in the dark, seeking their ends 
by tortuous means, though they seem to have eyes, are, 
like the mole, really stricken with blindness. 

At Morganton Sevier was met by Major Joseph 
McDowell, who had fought by his side at King's Mount- 
ain, and by General Charles McDowell, who, when driven 
from his home in the Revolution, had found an asylum 



210 JOHN SEVIER. 

with Sevier on the Nolichucky. These gentlemen showed 
him every attention ; and, indeed, he was treated with 
great consideration by all in the neighborhood, the 
sheriff going so far as to let him visit, unattended, a 
brother-in-law who resided some miles distant, on his 
simple parole that he would return on the day set for 
his trial. 

The court was in session, and in a few days the trial 
came on, amid such a gathering as had never before been 
seen in North Carolina. Far and near the news had 
spread, and many thousands came together to witness 
what was regarded as by far the most important political 
event that had occurred in the State since the proclama- 
tion of peace with Great Britain. The rude log court- 
house could not contain the great concourse of people, 
and the court sat with open doors and windows, much 
the larger part of the auditory being gathered outside in 
the court-yard. 

The trial had begun when Cozby and his companions 
arrived on the outskirts of Morgan ton. There they 
halted, and, concealing four of the horses in a clump 
of bushes, left them there near the roadside, all saddled 
and bridled, in charge of the young Seviers, and Cap- 
tains Greene and Gibson. Then Cozby and Evans, dis- 
guised as countrymen, entered the town, riding their 
horses and leading Sevier's celebrated racing animal. 
Proceeding as near to the court-house as they deemed 
prudent, they dismounted, and, tethering their horses to 
the limb of a tree, hid their rifles among its branches. 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 211 

Then they mingled with the crowd, their capacious 
hunting-shirts concealing the small arsenal of side-arms 
which they had provided for use in an emergency. Their 
plan was to effect the rescue by strategem ; but, that fail- 
ing, to fire the town, and, in the consequent hurry and 
alarm, to burst the doors where Sevier was confined, and 
bear him off in the confusion. 

Loitering along on foot, they now approached the 
door of the court-house, Evans still leading the mare, 
which had been negligently curried, to resemble more 
nearly the horse of a countryman. Arrived at the court- 
house, Evans threw the reins loosely over the neck of the 
animal, and stood with her directly before the open door, 
and in plain view from the interior of the building. He 
gazed leisurely around, as if an idle spectator of events, 
while Cozby entered the court-room, and, elbowing his 
way up the crowded aisle, halted directly before the 
judge's bench, and only a few feet from where his be- 
loved leader sat, surrounded by the court officials, but as 
"cool and undaunted as when charging the hosts of 
Wyuca on the Lookout Mountain." Soon Cozby caught 
Sevier's eye, and, by a significant gesture, directed his 
attention to his favorite horse, which stood impatiently 
pawing the ground at the doorway. With one glance 
Sevier took in the situation. A tear, it is said, moist- 
ened his cheek, for he saw that daring spirits were at hand, 
who had periled their lives for his rescue. Seeing that 
he was understood, Cozby now pressed still nearer to the 
bench, and in the quick, energetic tone which was pecul- 



212 JOHN SEVIER. 

iar to him, said to the judge, "Aren't you about done 
with that man ?" 

The question, and the tone and manner of the speak- 
er, drew all eyes upon him in amazement. For a few 
moments — as Cozby had intended — all was confusion. 
Taking instant advantage of this, Sevier sprang from 
among the officers, and, the crowd parting instinctively 
to the right and left, with a few bounds he was upon the 
back of his horse, and speeding away on the only road 
toward the mountains. Judge, lawyers, and spectators 
now rushed from the court-room, and in the confusion 
Cozby and Evans regained their horses and followed 
their leader. The outside crowd was composed mainly 
of a mass of " white trash," who have come into the 
, world for some as yet unascertained reason. They are 
the most stupid of created things, but they can appreci- 
ate a horse-race ; and now they sent up shout after shout 
as Sevier sped away, followed by the sheriff's officers. 
The latter rode as if the fate of North Carolina hung 
upon the capture of the fugitive, but they could not out- 
strip the wind ; the mare did that, and in a few moments 
she had Sevier at the rendezvous, where, with one wild 
shout, his rescuers closed in behind him and bore him 
off in safety. In two hours he was twenty miles away, 
at the house of a friend, in the seclusion of the Alle- 
ghanies.* 

* This account of Sevier's rescue is taken from the narrative of 
William Smith, in the "Annals of Tennessee," supplemented by personal 
conversations with Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey. 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 213 

Among the crowd who witnessed the rescue, cheering 
they knew not why, was, it is said, "a tall, lank, uncouth- 
looking young man, with long locks of hair hanging over 
his face, and a cue down his back, tied in an eel-skin." 
"His dress was singular, and his manners and deport- 
ment those of a rough backwoodsman." * His name was 
Andrew Jackson ; and he was then on his way to estab- 
lish himself as an attorney in Robertson's colony, on the 
Cumberland. 

Here I may as well anticipate events to record the 
tragic fate that befell Judge Spencer, who had issued 
the warrant for Sevier's arrest. Returning to North 
Carolina, he was seized with a severe illness, and, when 
only partly recovered from it, he one day ventured to 
take a seat in the open air of the court-yard in front 
of his dwelling. Attired from head to foot in red 
flannel, he was enjoying the morning breeze, when he 
was suddenly approached by a deadly enemy, who, un- 
mindful of his weak condition, and without one word of 
warning, set upon him furiously. The judge defended 
himself as well as he could, and uttered loud cries for 
help ; but no help came, and soon he fell prostrate to the 
ground, lifeless. Thus ingloriously perished this jurist 
— done to death by the beak and talons of a "turkey- 
gobbler." Scientists attributed the disaster to the red 
flannel which he wore, and to the shock resulting from 
the sudden assault ; but the common people always 



* Albert Gallatin. 
20 



214 JOHN SEVIEE. 

maintained that it was owing to his having consented to 
the arrest of John Sevier.* 

Never was such rejoicing known beyond the Alle- 
ghanies as when news arrived that N olichucky Jack had 
been rescued from the clutches of his enemies. As the 
tidings flew from hamlet to hamlet, the whole Territory 
broke into a blaze of bonfires and illuminations, and soon 
the entire country came together — men, women, and 
children — to Sevier's home, on the Nolichucky. The 
whole district took a long holiday, and it seemed as if 
the people would never give over their rejoicing. While 
he was in peril, they had thought of Sevier's vast services 
to them, of his recent heroic defense of the French 
Broad settlers ; and his danger had endeared him to 
them the more strongly. The malice of his enemies had 
only deepened the attachment of his friends. His name 
now acquired a sort of electrical force which prostrated 
all opposition ; and henceforth for twenty-seven years, 
whether in office or out of office, he held undisputed 
sway over the backwoods. He was still a branded and 
outlawed man ; but, in the teeth of this proscription, the 
people of Greene County, at their first election, chose 
him as their State senator ; and from that time forth 
honor after honor was heaped upon him by the whole 
backwoods people. They falsified the common adage 
that "republics are ungrateful." 

Sevier was still under indictment, and liable to in- 

* Communicated by Hon. W. A. Henderson, of Knoxville. 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 215 

stant arrest and trial for high treason ; but at the first 
session of the Legislature, in November, 1789, he repaired 
to Fayetteville to demand the seat to which he had been 
elected. It could not be accorded to him until his dis- 
qualifications had been removed, and at once one of his 
friends, Mr. Amy, the senator from Hawkins County, 
introduced a resolution withdrawing the charge of al- 
leged treason, and restoring him to the rights of citizen- 
ship. The resolution was opposed by Tipton, who was 
still a member of the Senate, and it was warmly advo- 
cated by Mr. Amy — so warmly that Tipton took strong 
offense at his words, and became so much infuriated that 
a hostile collision was with difficulty prevented. The 
debate was consequently adjourned to the ensuing day, 
and the evening was passed in reconciling the two gen- 
tlemen. 

Colonel Eoddy, of Greene County, censured Amy for 
exasperating Tipton, and begged him, in continuing the 
debate, to use language that would "soothe his feelings. " 
Amy probably declined to pick his words, for it was 
finally agreed that Eoddy should continue the discussion 
on the following day. Accordingly, Roddy resumed the 
debate, but he had not proceeded far in his speech before 
Tipton became again so much infuriated that he sprang 
from his seat, and, rushing upon Eoddy, seized him by 
the throat, while Amy cried out to Eoddy, "Soothe 
him, colonel — soothe him !." The echo of the House was, 
" Smooth him ! smooth him !" which indicated the sym- 
pathies of the members. A challenge to a duel resulted, 



216 JOHN SEVIER. 

but friends interfered, and the matter was settled ami- 
cably. 

Robertson was a "silent member, " with so little con- 
fidence in his oratorical ability that on all occasions he 
addressed the Senate in written memorials ; but now it 
is said that the confusion had no sooner subsided than 
he rose to his feet, and in a strain of impassioned elo- 
quence depicted the great services of Sevier, and his 
amazing sacrifices for the State and the western country. 
The legislators had done a great wrong in inflicting 
upon him outlawry. By doing so they had disgraced 
the State and themselves, and if they had a vestige 
of self-respect they would make haste to blot out the 
record of their misdoing. As for John Sevier, he was 
not to be judged by men who brought bar-room man- 
ners into the hall of the Senate, and disgraced it by 
brawls unseemly even in a tavern. Upon such men he 
should waste no words, but to the other gentlemen he 
would say that, if they had a proper regard for their 
own characters, they would at once repeal the act 
which outlawed John Sevier, and restore him to the 
citizenship his whole life had so highly honored. The 
motion being put by the Speaker, the resolution was 
passed unanimously — Tipton not voting.* At once 
Sevier took his seat, amid the universal congratulations 
of the members. 

To this same Legislature Martin presented a claim for 

* From conversations with Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey. 



OVERTHROW AND TRIUMPH. 217 

compensation for the officers and men who had been 
engaged in the recent abortive Chickamauga expedi- 
tion. The claim was a novel one, for during eighteen 
years the over-mountain settlers had defended them- 
selves at their own cost and charges. It met strong 
opposition ; but was at last passed, with the proviso 
that the money should be raised from taxes levied 
upon Washington District. Thus were the settlers made 
to pay their own war expenses — not directly and volun- 
tarily, as under Sevier, but indirectly and by enforced 
taxation. 

The claim had one good result : it disgusted the legis- 
lators with Joseph Martin, whom they at once removed 
from his position as brigadier-general of the western mili- 
tia. What became of him I do not know, but from this 
date he disappears from border history. Having done this 
act of retributive justice, the same Legislature proceeded 
at once to commission Sevier as brigadier-general, and 
to place him in supreme military command beyond the 
mountains. A sudden change of fortune truly : one day 
a branded outlaw, in peril of his life ; the next, in su- 
preme command, and elevated to it by his very enemies ! 
Henceforth, honors crowded thickly upon Sevier. Soon a 
convention of the people ratified the new Federal Consti- 
tution, and North Carolina became once more a member 
of the Union. She was entitled to four representatives 
in Congress, one of whom was apportioned by the Gen- 
eral Assembly to the counties beyond the Alleghanies. 
The election occurred in the ensuing March, and Sevier 



218 JOHN SEVIER. 

was put in nomination without a competitor, as no one 
would run against him. He was unanimously elected, 
and in the following June took his seat in Congress, 
the first representative from the great yalley of the Mis- 
sissippi. 



* 



CHAPTEE X. 

TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 

The State of Franklin went out of existence with the 
expiration of Sevier's term of office, on March 1, 1788 ; 
and this event left the settlers south of the French Broad 
and Holston in an anomalous and dangerous position. 
They had been an organized county under Franklin ; 
but, though North Carolina had issued grants to the set- 
tlers for their lands, she now refused to exercise jurisdic- 
tion over them, or to in any way recognize their exist- 
ence. The United States also gave them no sort of 
recognition ; or, rather, Congress did by the treaty of 
Hopewell admit that they were intruders upon Cherokee 
territory, and, in express terms, hand them over to the 
tender mercy of the savages. Therefore, these people, 
numbering as they did about one eighth of the whole 
"Watauga population, were now existing without either 
law or protection. We have seen how the savages moved 
against them as soon as Sevier had relinquished com- 
mand of the Franklin militia ; and how, acting only as a 
private citizen, he then saved them from destruction. 



220 J° HN SEVIER. 

That peril was no sooner passed than they were exposed 
to as great a danger ; and from that, too, they were to be 
rescued by their beloved leader. 

The war with the Cherokees ended in October, 1788, 
and at once there began to swarm into the French Broad 
settlements very many disorderly characters, who had 
been driven out from the older districts. They herded 
generally in the forest, but they prowled around the sta- 
tions, committing theft and sometimes murder, and be- 
fore the close of the year had become so numerous that 
there was little security for life or property in the dis- 
trict. In this emergency the settlers applied again to 
Sevier for assistance. He was now an officer of North 
Carolina, and consequently could afford them no personal 
aid ; but he did what was quite as effectual by showing 
them how to protect themselves. As once before he had 
clone for the Watauga settlers, so now for these exposed 
borderers Sevier framed a form of civil government, by 
which they might become an independent community — 
a little republic, on the confines of a larger one, and 
wedged in between it and two hostile Indian nations. 
These "Articles of Association" cover less than two oc- 
tavo pages, but they contain everything that was neces- 
sary for the efficient civil and military government of the 
outlawed settlements. Of themselves they are sufficient 
evidence of the remarkable ability of Sevier as a civil 
organizer. They were signed by all the settlers, who for 
that purpose met together at the house of Isaac Thomas, 
of whom I have had occasion to make mention in a 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 221 

previous volume. The brave scout had named the little 
collection of log-cabins, which had clustered about his 
own, Sevierville ; and the place is now one of the most 
beautiful villages in all that picturesque country. The 
government then organized was sufficient to rescue the 
district from anarchy and violence ; and under it law, 
order, and a proper administration of justice were main- 
tained until 1794, when the United States erected the 
district into a county, and gave it the name of Sevier, in 
honor of its deliverer and organizer. 

The authority of North Carolina was now acknowl- 
edged throughout the western counties ; but the western 
people had by no means returned to a hearty allegiance 
to the older government. They still felt their former 
antipathy to the "Tar-heel Commonwealth" and its 
"sand-hill" majority; and they regarded with mingled 
distrust and aversion the legislators whose unwise acts 
had introduced such disorder among them, and sub- 
jected them to so much hazard. With the French Broad 
settlers they heartily sympathized, and they considered 
their treatment by North Carolina as not only unjust 
but a political blunder ; and in the same category they 
classed the act by which the Legislature decreed that the 
soldiers of Martin's abortive Chickamauga expedition 
should be paid in certificates redeemable only in payment 
for taxes in "Washington District. Such parsimony was 
regarded as contemptible ; but it was seen to be danger- 
ous when the Legislature, from avowed economy, re- 
pealed the act for the support of the garrison which Se- 



222 JOHN SEVIER. 

vier had placed at the mouth of Elk River to protect 
Eobertson from the murderous raids of the Creeks and 
Chickamaugas. Next to Sevier, Robertson was more be- 
loved than any man on the border, and, though it was 
many years since they had seen his face, this exposure of 
him to renewed attack, in order to save a few paltry dol- 
lars, excited among the Watauga settlers intense and uni- 
versal indignation. Moved by these motives, the western 
jieople again clamored for .separation from North Caro- 
lina, and prayed that, if they could not be allowed to 
form themselves into a separate State, they might be 
taken under the wing of the General Government, which 
now was a body having force and vitality, with Washing- 
ton himself as its executive. 

At the same time that these sentiments were enter- 
tained beyond the mountains, the North Carolina Legis- 
lature awoke to the fact that the western counties were 
an inconvenient, expensive, and troublesome appendage, 
and that it was for the interest of both sections that the 
two should be no longer united. Accordingly, the As- 
sembly proceeded to mature a plan for a peaceable sepa- 
ration, and soon passed an act, in pursuance of which, 
on the 25th of February, 1790, North Carolina ceded to 
the United States all her territory west of the Allegha- 
nies. On the 2d of April of the same year, Congress 
accepted the cession ; and, on the 7th of August follow- 
ing, it enacted an ordinance erecting the ceded district 
into the " Territory southwest of the River Ohio," and 
making provision for its government. 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 223 

On the same day Washington nominated as Governor 
of the new Territory, William Blount, one of the few 
men of any talent whom North Carolina contributed to 
the Revolution. He had been a member of the North 
Carolina Senate and of Congress, a deputy from North 
Carolina to the convention which framed the Constitu- 
tion, and he had commended himself to the western peo- 
ple by a strenuous opposition to the treaty of Hopewell. 
He was of an English family of some rank and wealth, 
which at an early day had settled in the country, and 
was also a gentleman of good address, courtly manners, 
kindly feeling, and commanding presence. With some 
weaknesses, he was a man of worth and ability. His re- 
lations with Washington were very friendly, and doubt- 
less to this fact his appointment is to be attributed. 
With Blount were associated, as Territorial judges, David 
Campbell and Joseph Anderson, the first of whom had 
been on the bench of the Superior Court of both Frank- 
lin and North Carolina. To John Sevier Washington 
gave the rank of brigadier-general in the United States 
army, with command of the militia of Washington Dis- 
trict ; and he gave a like rank, and the command of the 
Cumberland militia, to James Robertson. 

Thus was the government of the new Territory or- 
ganized ; these five men being supreme, each in his own 
department, and the five embodying in themselves all 
legislative, civil, and military powers. But it was pro- 
vided in the ordinance that, whenever there were five 
thousand free adult males resident in the Territory, there 



224 JOHN SEVIER. 

should be added to them a Legislative Council and a 
House of Representatives, to originate and enact laws. 
And it was also provided that, whenever by actual cen- 
sus the total population should number sixty thousand 
free whites, the Territory should be admitted as an 
independent State into the Union. 

A peal of rejoicing was heard everywhere upon the 
" western waters " when this action of Congress was an- 
nounced in the Territory ; and the general joy was in- 
creased when, early in October, the new Governor arrived 
upon the Watauga, and it became generally known that 
all the civil and military officials of the late State of 
Franklin were to be retained in their positions. People 
saw in this the hand of John Sevier, and they recognized 
the fact that he was to be again the " power behind the 
throne," as he had been before, while Robertson was 
nominally the " head-man " at Watauga. 

Only ten days subsequent to this came tidings that 
President Washington had concluded a treaty at New 
York with McGillivray and twenty-eight of the princi- 
pal chiefs of the Creek nation, by which the machina- 
tions of Spain would be at last thwarted, and the war- 
cloud dispelled which had so long hung ominously over 
the entire border. It only remained to obtain from the 
Cherokees a cession of the lands occupied by the settlers 
south of the French Broad and Holston, to secure perma- 
nent peace and prosperity to the western country ; and 
soon it was announced that the Governor had dispatched 
a messenger to Echota, inviting the Cherokees to meet 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 225 

him at a conference, and that they had agreed to come 
for a "talk" to White's Fort, on the Holston, in the fol- 
lowing May. 

In these various events the people saw an augury of 
peaceful times, in which, no longer hampered by North 
Carolina, they might speedily attain to such a growth in 
numbers and wealth as would entitle them to rank as a 
State on equal terms with the older members of the 
Union. And this auspicious future they attributed to 
John Sevier, though it is evident that in some of these 
events he had no hand whatever. His popularity rose to 
an astonishing degree — higher, if possible, than when his 
life was endangered by the animosity of North Carolina ; 
and, had Blount attempted to conduct his administration 
without him, which he did not, the attempt would 
doubtless have been a failure. The popular feeling is 
illustrated by a trifling incident which is said to have oc- 
curred to Blount himself on his first entrance into the 
Territory. It is related that, riding with a small escort 
into the town of Jonesboro, he dismounted at the one 
log -tavern, and applied to the landlord for his best 
rooms, saying that he was the new Governor. The boni- 
face, it is said, eyed him leisurely from head to foot — 
from cocked hat and "store-clothes" to high- top boots — 
and then coolly remarked: "You can have my best 
rooms, sir, if you've the money to pay for them ; but, as 
for your being the Governor, it ain't so ! We've got a 
Governor already, and his name is John Sevier ; and let 

me caution you, sir, that it won't be healthy to go 'round 
21 



22G JOHN SEVIER. 

here usurpin' his office. We've heard the United States 
has put some ruffle-shirted fellow over us ; but we don't 
care a d— n for the United States ! We've got a Gov- 
ernor now, just as good a one as we want ; and I tell 
you, sir, his name is John Sevier." 

Whether the story be true or not, the Governor had 
the good sense to act upon its moral. Had he done 
otherwise, he would have found it impossible to restrain 
the people, under the strong provocations they soon re- 
ceived from the Spaniards and the Indians. 

The conference with the Cherokees did not occur in 
the following May, owing to the fact that the Indians 
were fearful to come unarmed to the treaty-ground as 
was the custom. The recent ill-advised slaughter of Old 
Tassel had made them suspicious of treachery, and many 
of the chieftains of the interior towns refused to trust 
themselves in the power of the whites. To allay their 
apprehensions, Robertson, in whom all the tribes had the 
utmost confidence, was sent among them, and he suc- 
ceeded in inducing the attendance of the principal chiefs 
and warriors at White's Fort, in the latter part of June, 
1791. White's Fort was then on the extreme frontier, 
and as it afterward rose to prominence as the future 
Knoxville, and became for many years the seat of both 
the Territorial and State governments, it requires a few 
words of description. 

The place was first visited by white men in the sum- 
mer of 1787. Then a couple of Revolutionary soldiers, 
named James White and James Conner, from Iredell 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 227 

County, North Carolina, came upon it one day as they 
were exploring for a spot on which to locate the land- 
warrants they had received from the State in return for 
their services in the war. They had reached a point on 
the northern bank of the Holston, about four miles be- 
low the mouth of the French Broad, when their steps 
were arrested by the beauty of the scene which was every- 
where spread around them. They were at the summit 
of a low ridge that sloped abruptly down to the river, 
which here flowed in a turbid stream, a hundred and 
fifty yards in width, but broken by a small island, clad 
in green, and covered with giant oaks and poplars, tow- 
ering a hundred feet and more into the air. On the 
river's opposite bank was a range of lofty hills, that rose 
in grassy slopes from the water's edge, but soon broke 
into perpendicular cliffs whose summits bore the forest 
growth of many centuries. Everywhere was seen this 
primitive forest, interspersed with a dense foliage of 
laurel and rhododendron, which loaded with perfume all 
the atmosphere. No sound broke the primeval stillness 
save the voice of the birds that were singing their morn- 
ing hymn among the trees, and the low murmur of a 
little streamlet which, fed by numerous springs, poured 
its clear waters into the turbid river through a deep ra- 
vine not a hundred yards away. The dense growth of 
deciduous trees indicated a deep, rich soil, and the many 
springs that bubbled up along the margin of the narrow 
stream would furnish an inexhaustible supply of pure 
water for a settlement. These features marked the spot 



228 JOHN SEVIER. 

as an appropriate site for the home of which these men 
were in qnest ; and, moreover, the summit on which they 
stood was Nature's own location for a fort, and without 
a fort no frontier hamlet could then be safe from the 
murderous attacks of the Indians. 

The location decided upon, these men set about the 
erection of the log fortress which was to protect their 
intended settlement. It covered a triangular piece of 
ground of about half an acre. At each corner was built a 
cabin of hewn logs a foot or more square, the ends mor- 
tised, and the logs fitted closely one upon the other, so 
as to form a wall impenetrable to rifle-bullets. Two of 
these cabins were of two stories, the upper story project- 
ing about two feet beyond the lower, and pierced with 
port-holes, from which the settler could see and repel an 
enemy should he scale the stockade, or approach near 
enough to fire the buildings. The stockade filled the 
intervening spaces between the cabins, and was of timber 
a foot square and eight feet long, imbedded firmly in the 
ground, the upper ends sharpened, and the whole set so 
closely together as to be impervious to small-arms. A 
wide gate, hung on stout wooden hinges, and secured by 
heavy hickory bars, opened toward the little stream, and 
from it a path led down to one of the many springs along 
its border. Though of rude construction, and not very 
imposing in appearance, the fort was altogether impreg- 
nable to any attack from such desultory warriors as the 
Indians, unless they should come upon it in overpower- 
ing numbers, or by a regular siege starve out the garri- 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 229 

son. It was on the model of the one built fifteen years 
before by John Sevier, at Watauga ; which original for- 
tress was the prototype of a thousand others subsequently 
erected beyond the Alleghanies. 

Having built the fort, the two veterans set to work 
felling the trees about the barrack and clearing the 
ground of stumps, to prevent their becoming hiding- 
places for savage assailants ; and then they planted the 
cleared land in corn, and went away for their families. 
They returned with them the same year, and with the 
family of another Eevolutionary soldier took up their 
abode in the fort ; and thus was formed the nucleus of 
the first capital of the great State of Tennessee. 

The growth of a backwoods town at this period was 
not what it is now, when steam and electricity have an- 
nihilated distance, and the iron road bears to the remot- 
est border all the appliances of a high civilization. Life 
on the frontier was then totally destitute of the luxuries, 
and but scantily furnished with the comforts, which are 
now considered essential to cultivated existence. For 
years the houses were of rough logs, with puncheon 
floors and unglazed windows ; and the settler's fare was 
of as primitive a description. Pounded corn was his 
only bread, his only meat the game brought down by his 
rifle. He planted flax, and this his wife spun and wove 
into garments for herself and her children ; but his own 
clothing was seldom other than the deer-skin leggins and 
hunting-shirt of the aborigines. This was the way of life 
of the first settlers of Knoxville. 



230 JOHN SEVIER. 

But they did not long remain there alone. Soon 
other families gathered into the fort, and then others 
clustered around its walls, but near enough to find it a 
refuge in case of an attack from the Indians. Among 
the first-comers were James. King, Hugh Dunlap, Sam- 
uel and Nathaniel Cowan, Joseph Greer, John Chisholm, 
John and Arthur Crozier, Charles McClung, and Fran- 
cis A. Kamsey, many of which names are now, at the 
distance of a century, borne by the most prominent citi- 
zens of the present city of more than twenty thousand 
inhabitants. The surrounding country also soon came 
to be settled by a thriving farming population, among 
whom were such men as James Cozby, the heroic rescuer 
of Sevier, and John Adair, lately the patriotic entry- 
taker of the Watauga District ; and they helped to 
make White's Fort an important trading and agricul- 
tural center. This was its condition when it was chosen 
as the ground upon which to hold the treaty with the 
Cherokees ; and this event decided its future, for it 
brought it to the notice of the Government officials, and 
led them to select it as the capital of the new Territory. 

The treaty was held at the foot of what is now Water 
Street, and under the tall trees which then shaded the 
banks of the Holston. Fully twelve hundred Cherokees 
gathered upon the ground, and from far and near 
came all the white settlers. None wore arms ; and it 
was curious to see the whites, who had only recently 
met these painted savages in deadly conflict, now frater- 
nizing with them as if their relations had always been 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 231 

friendly. The Governor's tent was pitched on a gentle 
knoll near the river ; and, standing there in full dress — 
with gilded sword and epaulets, and three-cornered hat 
bedizened with gold lace — he gave audience to the dusky 
delegates. One by one, to the number of forty-one, they 
were presented to him, and each one was received with 
as much courtesy as if he had been the representative of 
a civilized monarchy ; for the Governor was a man fond 
of ceremony, and fully believed that a considerable dis- 
play of " fuss and feathers" was needed to impress a due 
sense of white prowess upon the savage imagination. 
But a trifling incident which occurred on the first day of 
the gathering should have taught him differently. Two 
men then came together on the treaty-ground who had 
not met before for ten years. The two were clad in 
buckskin hunting-shirts and homespun trousers, with 
none of the Governor's tinsel decorations ; but they were 
no sooner seen together on the grounds than the Gov- 
ernor's marquee was deserted, and the chieftains gathered 
about them with hand-shaking and every manifestation 
of friendship. The two men were Sevier and Rob- 
ertson. 

On the 2d of July the treaty was concluded. It 
guaranteed perpetual peace and friendship between the 
whites and Cherokees ; and, in consideration of certain 
valuable goods, and an annual payment of one thousand 
dollars in money, it secured from the Indians the cession 
of all lands lying north of "the ridge which divides the 
waters running into Little River from those running into 



232 JOHN SEVIER. 

the [Little] Tennessee.'' This did not convey to the 
United States all the lands which had been settled upon 
south of the French Broad and Holston ; but the chief- 
tains could not be prevailed upon to make any further 
extension of the line, and the settlement was acquiesced 
in as the best that could be done in the circumstances. 
Moreover, the United States Government was anxious to 
be in friendly relations with both the Creeks and Chero- 
kees, pending the negotiation which was still going on 
with Spain for the opening of the Mississippi. 

These Indians occupied the territory between the 
Spanish and American settlements. The Spaniards were 
in high favor with most of the chiefs and warriors ; they 
had for a long time traded with them, and they had 
pledged to them the protection of the Spanish king 
against the encroaching progress of the Americans. This 
intercourse the Spanish Government had fostered, be- 
cause these Indians were ready instruments for harassing 
the settlers ; and ceaseless secret warfare was to be the 
policy of Spain until she could force the Western peo]:>le 
to secede from the Union. The Government of Wash- 
ington had penetrated the designs of Spain, and it aimed 
to frustrate them by a policy of '"masterly activity." 
Its officers were instructed to treat the Spaniards with 
courtesy, and to act only on the defensive toward the 
Indians, who were to be detached from the Spanish alli- 
ances if possible. This had now been done in express 
terms by treaty, first with the Creeks and now with the 
Cherokees, both of whom had acknowledged themselves 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 233 

to be " under the protection of the United States, and of 
no other sovereign whatsoever." 

But these Indians were faithless and treacherous. 
They might at any moment violate the treaty, and come 
upon the frontier settlements in overpowering numbers ; 
therefore, as Sevier was restricted by the Government 
from pursuing his favorite policy of invading their coun- 
try, he must put his own country into the best posture 
for defense. To this end he built a cordon of block- 
houses along the frontier ; and he removed his own resi- 
dence to the extreme western border, where he could act 
without delay as the emergency demanded. He built a 
station about five miles south of White's Fort, and among 
the people he had so recently saved from destruction. 
His house he located near a beautiful spring, which gushes 
from one of the spurs of Bay's Mountain, and in the 
midst of a hilly and picturesque country. It was of logs, 
like his residence upon the Nolichucky ; but it was com- 
modious and comfortable, and much better adapted to 
the region than a more pretentious dwelling. This re- 
moval of Sevier, from an old-settled and secure district 
to one that was new and constantly exposed to raids 
from the savages, denoted the same forgetfulness of self 
which had led him twenty years before to cast in his lot 
with the Watauga settlers. 

The removal of Sevier led to the departure of Blount 
from Watauga, where he had at first made his residence, 
and his locating nearer the " general of the forces." He 
chose White's Fort as his residence, and built there at 



234 JOHN SEVIER. 

first a plain log-cabin, on a gentle knoll, about a quarter 
of a mile west of the fort, and near the grounds now oc- 
cupied by the university. 

The coming of the Governor gave the place an impor- 
tance it had not possessed before. It became at once the 
capital of the Territory ; a court-house went up, and a 
jail — both of logs, and the latter only fourteen feet 
square — and it received the name of Knoxville, in honor 
of General Knox, then the Secretary of War. Settlers 
also flocked into it, and it was not long before the town 
could boast of a post-office, with a mail arriving twice a 
month from the seaboard; and a newspaper, which ap- 
peared as often, to scatter the news of the world among 
the secluded backwoods. 

To this primitive region Sevier removed his family, 
and the Governor his wife — the gentle and accomplished 
Mary Grainger. In his humble log-cabin the Governor 
held such state as he could ; and there, too, Mary Grain- 
ger dispensed such numberless graces as charmed alike 
the rude frontiersman and the still ruder aborigines. 
But a rude log-cabin was not a suitable dwelling for this 
gentle lady ; therefore, being a man of abundant means, 
the Governor planned and erected for her a more com- 
modious mansion. It was located on the slope between 
the fort and the river, and when built was as pretentious 
a dwelling as could be found anywhere west of the sea- 
board. The frame was of oak, covered with planed 
weather-boarding ; and the house was surrounded by a 
well-kept garden, which was the delight of all beholders. 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 235 

It looked down upon a log court-house, a log jail, and 
a score of log dwellings, which, with the log barrack 
already mentioned, composed the capital of the vast 
Territory oyer which Governor Blount now held do- 
minion. 

One by one the old log-cabins have been torn down to 
make room for more stately structures ; and to-day only 
one of them remains, a sad, dilapidated memorial of the 
simple tastes and frugal lives of the past century. This 
sole survivor of a by-gone time was in its day the home 
of one of the most influential citizens of Knoxville. He 
was a God-fearing man, with a large family, and he 
planned to build a two-storied dwelling with room and 
verge enough for his numerous progeny. But when the 
logs were upon the ground, and the structure had risen a 
short distance above the first story, he said to the friends 
who were aiding in its erection: "Why should I have 
a house so much better than my neighbors ? And, be- 
sides, shall I not be tempting Providence if I build such 
a tower of Babel as this will be if we carry it up a full 
second story ? " So the cabin rose no higher than it was, 
and thus it has remained to this day, except that a 
descendant of the patriarch, less humble of spirit than 
his progenitor, years ago covered its naked ugliness with 
a coat of rough weather-boarding. 

In his framed house the Governor lived freely, and 
even elegantly, and dispensed the liberal hospitality so 
natural in the olden time to the well-born and well-bred 
Carolina gentleman. Levees and receptions were fre- 



236 JOHN SEVIER. 

quent, and the mansion was often crowded with stran- 
gers, drawn to the frontier by business, pleasure, or 
curiosity, from all parts of the Union. The style of 
hospitality was, of necessity, below that of Philadelphia 
and other of the older cities ; but in the condition of 
things it was not less expensive to the liberal host, who 
was forced to draw all his luxuries and elegancies from 
long distances on pack-horses or clumsy ox-wagons. The 
visitor, however, whoever he was, rich or poor, white 
man or red, was sure of a cordial welcome, and none 
ever went away without speaking in honest praise of the 
hearty good feeling of the gentlemanly Governor, and 
the genuine grace and goodness of his accomplished lady. 
But the old mansion was built in troublous times, 
and its new coat of paint was scarcely dry when it 
narrowly escaped a fiery baptism. For the Cherokees 
had risen, and were marching on the settlements. Con- 
cession and conciliation had been of no avail. The 
treaty of Holston was not a year old when they fell 
upon Eobertson, and now John Watts and the Bloody 
Fellow were impatient to engage in a shooting-match 
with Nolichucky Jack's riflemen. They knew the orders 
of his Government — that in case of attack he should 
simply defend the settlements, and under no circum- 
stances invade the Indian country. They knew this, 
and also that in the fort at Knoxville were stored three 
hundred muskets and a large amount of ammunition, 
under guard of but two invalid soldiers, while Sevier was 
twenty miles away on the extreme frontier, and the Goy- 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 237 

ernor was at Watauga. The muskets and gunpowder 
were too glittering a prize for the Cherokees to resist, 
with Nolichucky Jack so far away, and under orders 
not to pursue them into the Indian country. 

So it came to pass that, soon after the solitary cannon 
of the fort announced the sunrise on the morning of 
September 25, 1793, a horseman, covered with foam, 
rode in hot haste into the quiet town, crying out : 
" The Cherokees are coming ! A thousand strong ! Not 
ten miles away ! Every man to the barrack ! " 

They fled to the fort, the men leaving the plow in 
the furrow, the women the morning hoe-cake unbaked 
before the fire, and there they made ready, as well as 
they could, to meet and repel so overwhelming a force 
of the enemy. James White, the pioneer settler, a man 
now somewhat beyond his prime, but an able soldier, 
took command of the forty settlers who had gathered 
within the fort, and the little band prepared to defend 
themselves to the last extremity. 

The fire-arms were unboxed, put in order, and set be- 
side the port-holes, and every soul — even the women and 
older children — was put at work molding bullets and 
loading muskets. The women and children were to load 
while the men were to fire, and thus the effective force 
of the garrison was augmented to a hundred. There 
was no haste or noise, but all worked for dear life, for 
well each one knew that his life was at stake — for the 
savages spared neither sex nor age ; if the fort were 

taken, it would be an indiscriminate massacre. 
22 



238 JOHN SEVIER. 

So the hours wore away — one hour, two hours — and 
the watchman on the lookout saw as yet no sign of the 
savages. Then another horseman rode up also in hot 
haste, his horse, too, covered with the foam and dust of 
hard riding. He reported the Cherokees fifteen hundred 
strong, at Cavet's, scarcely eight miles away. They had 
halted there, set fire to the stables, and would no doubt 
massacre the thirteen men, women, and children who 
were at the station. Was not this a prophecy of the fate 
that awaited the little garrison ? This they all thought, 
but not a soul gave his thought expression. With firm, 
fixed eyes they looked into one another's faces, and what 
these looks said was, "If we must die, we will sell our 
lives as dearly as possible ! " 

Then other anxious hours wore away, till the sun be- 
gan to sink below the hills, but still the watchman on 
the lookout called, at regular intervals, "Nothing yet 
of the red-skins." What did it mean — this delay of the 
savages ? At nightfall the veteran White called a coun- 
cil, and asked every man this- question. The majority 
thought that the Indians, true to their usual tactics, 
were waiting for the darkness to cover their movements, 
and that they would be upon the fort by midnight. 
White himself was of that opinion, and he asked, 
"But what can we do — forty men against a thou- 
sand?" 

The answer of all was that they could die, but they 
would sell their lives as dearly as possible. But White 
had no thought of dying any sooner than might be 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 239 

absolutely necessary. And he believed that what can 
not be effected by force can sometimes be accomplished 
by stratagem. A mile to the west, by the route the 
savages would approach, is a high ridge, which was then 
covered with a dense growth of oak and poplar. White 
proposed that all the men in the fort, except two of 
the oldest, should repair there when the night was some- 
what advanced, and, concealed among the trees, in a 
line about twenty yards apart, await the coming of the 
Indians. When the advance of the savages was within 
short musket-range of the most remote of the garrison, 
he should fire, and that should be the signal for each 
man to take deliberate aim and bring down an enemy. 
Then, without waiting to notice so much as the effect of 
his discharge, every man should make his way as quickly 
as he could to the fort, which, if the Indians should 
come on, they would defend to the last extremity. But 
it was thought that the sudden attack in the woods 
would throw the enemy into confusion ; that he would 
expect a formidable ambuscade, and would seek his own 
safety in flight, leaving the fort unmolested. 

It was a hazardous plan ; but those brave men put it 
into execution. All night long they waited there, rest- 
ing upon their muskets ; but no savage yell broke the 
stillness of their vigil, and in the morning another horse- 
man came, announcing that the Indians, after destroy- 
ing Cavet's, had turned suddenly southward. They were 
then in full retreat to the Tellico, and close at their heels 
was Nolichucky Jack, the Nemesis of the Cherokees ! 



240 JOHN SEVIER. 

This the savages knew, and hence their sudden flight to 
their mountain fastnesses. 

For several months the people had been greatly ex- 
asperated over the repeated outrages of the savages, and 
time and again they had called upon Sevier and the Gov- 
ernor to allow them to invade the Indian country ; but. 
in compliance with their instructions, both these officers 
had been obliged to refuse all such requests. The Gov- 
ernor, however, had addressed the Secretary of War on 
the subject ; but the latter had replied, declining to be 
led into a useless and expensive war. The encroach- 
ments of the settlers were, in his opinion, the cause of 
the savage outrages. Let those cease, and the Governor 
would have no more border murders. 

This statement of the subject did not meet the views 
of the border settlers. They at once enrolled themselves, 
and were about to march upon the Cherokees, when the 
Governor issued a proclamation calling upon them to 
desist and return to their homes. This they did, on 
hearing that orders had been given to a company of 
cavalry to range between the Holston and the Little 
River. In the midst of this excitement we have the 
first tidings from Colonel John Tipton since the de- 
cease of the State of Franklin. Under date of March 
23, 1793, the "Knoxville Gazette" has this paragraph 
in relation to that gentleman : ( ' Much has been said 
about the attempts and determination of Colonel John 
Tipton to raise a body of men, regardless of law and 
the orders of the Government, to destroy the Cherokee 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 2il 

towns. Only fiye men appeared at his rendezvous — 
Jonesboro — instead of his boasted nine hundred. They 
passed through Jonesboro, marched to a still-house [a 
groggery] a few miles below, and returned. This affords 
a pleasing proof of the good sense of the people. " And 
it also showed that Colonel Tipton had not recovered 
the popularity he had lost in consequence of his course 
toward John Sevier. 

In the exasperated state of the public mind it was 
not difficult for Sevier to collect, within twenty-four 
hours, a body of six hundred horsemen to invade the 
Indian country. It was reported to him by James 
Carey, one of the United States interpreters residing 
with the Cherokees, that " the impression was prevalent 
among the Indians that the reason the Americans did 
not retaliate, but bore patiently the injuries they had 
received from them, was the posture of their negotia- 
tions with foreign powers, and their fear of offending 
them. If it were not for this, the Americans certainly 
would not be offering and begging peace in return for 
murders, robberies, and bloodshed, daily committed on 
their citizens." 

It was neither wise nor safe to let the daring inroad 
of John Watts against the very capital of the Territory 
go unpunished. This was the unanimous sentiment of 
the people, and, his action being now authorized by the 
Secretary of the Territorial Government, Sovier pro- 
ceeded to deal a sudden and destructive blow against 
the very heart of the Creek and Cherokee nations. He 



242 JOHN SEVIER. 

swept through the Cherokee country, leaving a trail of 
blackened ruin behind him ; and then he pressed on into 
the country of the Creeks, not slackening his pace till 
he arrived near the present town of Kome, Georgia, 
where he found the combined Creek and Cherokee forces 
drawn up to dispute the passage of the Hightower 
Eiver. The rest is best told in Sevier's own report to 
the Governor: "In the afternoon of the 17th inst." 
(October), he writes, "we arrived at the forks of Coosa 
and Hightower Kivers. Colonel Kelly was ordered, with 
a part of the Knox regiment, to endeavor to cross the 
Hightower. The Creeks and a number of Cherokees 
had intrenched themselves to obstruct the passage. 
Colonel Kelly and his party passed down the river, 
half a mile below the ford, and began to cross at a 
private place, where there was no ford. Himself and 
a few others swam over the river. The Indians, dis- 
covering this movement, immediately left their in- 
trenchments, and ran down the river to oppose their 
passage, expecting, as I suppose, that the whole intended 
crossing at the lower place. Captain Evans immedi- 
ately, with his company of mounted infantry, strained 
his horses back to the upper ford and began to cross 
the river. Very few had got to the south bank before 
the Indians, discovering their mistake, returned and 
received them furiously at the rising of the bank. 
An engagement instantly took place, and became very 
warm, and, notwithstanding the enemy were at least four 
to one in numbers, besides having the advantage of situa- 



TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT. 243 

tion, Captain Evans with his heroic company put them 
in a short time entirely to flight. . . . Their encamp- 
ment fell into our hands, with a number of their guns, 
which were of the Spanish sort. . . . The party flogged 
at Hightower were those which had been out with 
Watts. We took and destroyed three hundred beeves, 
which must distress them very much. Many women and 
children might have been taken ; but, from motives of 
humanity, I did not encourage it to be done, and several 
taken were suffered to make their escape. Your Ex- 
cellency knows the disposition of many who were out 
on this expedition, and can readily account for this 
conduct." 

In Evans's "heroic company" was a son of James 
White, the pioneer of Knoxville, who subsequently rose 
to eminence as Judge Hugh Lawson White. The In- 
dians were making a determined stand under King- 
Fisher, one of their most distinguished warriors, when 
young White leveled his rifle, and the formidable cham- 
pion fell mortally wounded. This decided the battle, 
for the Indians immediately broke and fled. 

Sevier now turned his face homeward, destroying 
every town and village in his way. This invasion, 
which is called the campaign of Etowah, completely 
broke the spirit of the Indians, and never again, during 
the life of Sevier, did they venture to attack in force 
the French Broad and Holston settlements. 



CHAPTER XL 

PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 

The hostility of the Indians continued after their 
crushing defeat at Etowah, but they never again, until 
1812, mustered in force for a general attack upon the 
border. Eor a time they made inroads upon the settle- 
ments in small gangs, which, stealing at midnight upon 
some solitary cabin, would be miles away by the morn- 
ing ; but gradually even these raids ceased, for the fast- 
increasing population soon gave Sevier so considerable a 
body of troops that he was able to patrol every hamlet and 
every by-path in the Territory. The campaign of Etowah 
taught the Indians that Sevier could be made to resume 
his former policy of carrying the war into the enemy's 
country. This the Cherokees were too wise to invite, 
when he would now be backed by such a force as could 
be drawn from a population of at least fifty thousand ; 
therefore, they beat their " spears into pruning-hooks," 
exchanged their tomahawks for broad-axes, and with 
these set about the felling of the forest. Soon after- 
ward Robertson broke up the nest of the Chickamauga 
bandits, and then the whole Cherokee nation took to 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 245 

peaceful ways. They planted and sowed and gathered 
into barns, beginning thus that career of civilization in 
which they have made such commendable progress in 
their new home west of the Mississippi. From this 
time forward, for twenty years, peace and Nolichucky 
Jack reigned upon the border. It was a patriarchal 
"reign," such as never before or since has been known 
in this country ; but, before briefly considering it, it 
seems necessary to take a short survey of the way of life 
of the people who were the pioneers of civilization be- 
yond the Alleghanies. 

The present State of Tennessee covers an area of 
42,050 square miles, but at the period of which I write 
the Indian title had been extinguished to , Jess than one 
sixth of this surface. Civilized man occupied only two 
detached portions of it : the first, an irregular parallelo- 
gram of about five thousand square miles, extending 
southwesterly from the present town of Bristol to the 
high ridge south of Little Eiver ; and the second, an 
oblong tract of about two thousand square miles, ex- 
tending some forty miles up and down the Cumberland, 
on either side of the town of Nashville. The remainder 
of this vast region was either in permanent occupation 
by the savages or frequently resorted to by them as a 
hunting-ground ; and they were estimated to number 
not far from a hundred and fifty thousand, of whom at 
least twenty thousand were warriors. These Indians 
were the immediate neighbors of the settlers ; but be- 
yond the Mississippi was an unknown myriad, in friendly 



246 JOHN SEVIER. 

alliance with the others, and who also were by nature and 
instinct the enemies of the white race. Very high of 
courage and resolute of purpose must the people have 
been who in the space of twenty years could not only 
wrest from so superior a force the fairest portion of 
their possessions, but could reduce them to a state of 
vassalage in which the various tribes were content to own 
these intruding strangers as lords paramount .over the 
fields which, time out of mind, had held the graves of 
their ancestors. 

And yet the people who achieved such astonishing 
results had no permanent military organization ; they 
occupied scattered plantations, which, in most cases, 
they tilled with their own hands, and their warlike ex- 
peditions were merely episodes in their lives. Their mili- 
tary operations being over, they returned to their homes, 
and resumed the axe and the plow with which they 
were subduing the wilderness. They were mostly an 
agricultural people, having no large towns, and very few 
villages. Jonesboro, their largest settlement, contained 
not more than a hundred log-cabins ; and Knoxville, 
when it had been for three years the capital of the 
Territory, numbered only thirty houses, only one of 
which had required a trained mechanic for its construc- 
tion. The place was little more than a farming hamlet — 
the center of an agricultural district, having a radius of 
about fifteen miles, and a total population of not ex- 
ceeding five hundred, some of whom, like John Sevier, 
had their homes upon their plantations, but kept up a 



PIONEER LITE IN 1796. 247 

town residence on account of official duties, or because it 
brought them more closely in contact with the outside 
world. But both town and country dwellings were 
models of rustic simplicity, and often men who wielded 
a wide influence had their abode in cabins that would 
now be thought unsuitable domiciles for any one above a 
day-laborer. The father of Hugh Lawson White was the 
wealthiest man in the Knoxville district ; but that emi- 
nent jurist learned to read by the light of a hickory-fire, 
and studied law in a small log office, having a puncheon 
floor, and not a pane of glass in its two narrow windows. 
Nearly all of these original cabins have crumbled 
away, but from the few that remain it is easy, with the 
help of tradition, to reconstruct the life that was led by 
the early pioneers. At the time of which I am writing, 
the traveler could not journey a mile in any direction 
along the valleys of the Holston or Watauga without 
coming upon a few acres of clearing, inclosed within a 
brush fence, in the midst of which was a one-story cabin 
of unhewed logs, about twenty feet square, roofed with 
split poplar, and having, going up on the outside, a huge 
chimney of sticks and clay. Its windows would be 
"glazed" with coarse paper, made transparent by a 
smearing of bear's grease ; and at night they would be 
protected by heavy shutters, stoutly barred, as were the 
doors, to keep out intruders. Over the doorway, both in 
front and rear, was a narrow opening to serve as a look- 
out and port-hole in case of attack ; and, until John 
Sevier brought permanent peace to the border, the man 



248 JOHN - SEVIER. 

of the house never opened his door of a morning till he 
had clambered to this opening to see that no savage 
enemy was lurking about his dwelling. 

On one side, the house was flanked by a small patch 
of inclosed ground, growing the ordinary garden vege- 
tables, and on the other by a log-barn, or a few ricks 
of hay or corn-fodder. Beyond the house stretched a 
broad field of plowed land, mostly in Indian corn, 
though, if the farmer was but a recent immigrant from 
the older settlements, it might contain a sprinkling of 
wheat, rye, oats, and other edibles ; for this soil will 
produce whatever grows in the temperate regions. But, 
let it contain what it might during the farmer's first 
season, by his second it would be pretty sure to be mo- 
nopolized by the native cereal — for corn was the one 
best adapted to the condition and wants of the pioneer. 
No other grew so fast, matured so quickly, or yielded 
so abundantly, and hence, from both choice and neces- 
sity, it was the food most cultivated by the early set- 
tler. "Without it," says Dr. Ramsey, "the frontier set- 
tlements could not have been, formed and maintained. 
It was the principal bread of that robust race of men — 
giants in miniature — which, half a century since, was 
seen on the frontier." 

Beyond the little clearing stretched an almost un- 
broken forest ; but threading it here and there were 
foot-traces and bridle-paths and narrow wagon-roads, 
encumbered, perhaps, with stumps, and in the rainy 
season hub-deep in mud, but leading to where some 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 249 

similar dwelling occupied a similar clearing. The dwell- 
ings were within rifle-sound of one another, and so the 
pioneer was not without social life and neighbors, whom 
he probably valued the more from the fact that there 
were not very many of them. 

Nor was the pioneer without intercourse with the 
world. If he lived upon or near a highway, a stream 
of human life flowed past his door almost daily, either 
in bands of hunters following the fast-retreating deer 
and buffalo, or in long cavalcades of immigrants wend- 
ing their slow way in clumsy, covered wagons to homes 
still farther to the westward. From these new-comers 
the settlers received tidings from the outside world — 
" news " which had of necessity grown old on its jour- 
ney of two or three months from the seaboard. 

The settler's life was anything but lonely. In this 
genial climate, where man seems exempt from the general 
law "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," 
there is a long season after harvest, and again after 
planting, when the farmer has next to nothing to do. 
These seasons the pioneers devoted to friendly inter- 
course with their neighbors, and numberless were their 
social gatherings. They came together for quilting- 
bees and dancing-shindies, for shooting-matches and 
corn-shuckings ; and these were often scenes of unre- 
strained mirth and jollity, but always of innocent and 
hearty enjoyment. Corn-shuckings were favorite gather- 
ings, for they brought together the young and old of 

both sexes ; and the husking and shelling of the corn 
23 



250 JOHN SEVIER. 

did not in any way interfere with the free flow of con- 
versation. Scarcely a winter evening passed but the 
neighbors dropped in upon one another — for a mile in 
a new country is not nearly so long as a mile in an 
old one. It is not difficult to imagine one of these 
gatherings, or to conjecture what would be the promi- 
nent topics of conversation on such occasions. They 
were not theological. Such subjects afforded no chance 
for discussion, for all were "Hard-shell Baptists," who 
had formulated the whole duty of man into the one 
phrase, "Love thy neighbor, and hate the Cherokees." 
They were not political ; for here, too, all thought 
alike, and had embodied their political principles in one 
tenet, " Nolichucky Jack, first and last and all the time." 
Neither of these subjects would engage their attention. 
Their talk would be of the dangers they had passed 
and the obstacles they had overcome in their more 
than twenty years' struggle with the savages and the 
wilderness. Then, as he sat by the broad, open fire-place, 
while the younger people were gathered around, "a- 
shucking of the corn" — 

"Dad would take down his Deckard, 

And tell the stirring tale, 
How 'Chucky Jack, the hero, 

Led on the Indian trail; 
How silently we followed 

"Where he did lead the way, 
Till the savage camp we sighted 

At the dawning of the day. 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 251 

Then 'Chucky Jack dismounted, 

And gave the Indian yell, 
And down we swooped upon 'em 

Like devils out of hell. 
The hullets they did rattle, 

About our ranks like hail; 
It was the sort of battle 

At which the brave might quail; 
But through it all our leader, 

A -waving of his blade, 
Rode 'mid the fire and slaughter 

As cool as on parade; 
Though many a savage marksman, 

All through the bloody strife, 
Had poised his deadly rifle 

For the taking of his life : 
But never yet was molded 

The bullet for his breast, 
For there's a better fate awaiting 

Our hero of the "West." 



They were a fine race of men and women ; but they 
lived in deeds, not words, and so have left but scanty 
records from which to construct their histories. Their 
lives, their very names, are being fast hidden under the 
gathering mold of a century. Even the children who 
listened to their stirring tales of danger and deliverance 
are old men now, from whose minds are rapidly fad- 
ing the feeble impressions of those early days ; but 
with them all still linger vivid traditions of the in- 



252 JOHN SEVIER. 

veterate hostility between the white settlers and the 
Cherokees, a considerable portion of which once power- 
ful nation still hoyered along the border when Ten- 
nessee was admitted to the Union. 

Few of these old people now remain ; but here and 
there one may be seen among the Tennessee mountains, 
tottering along under the weight of almost a cent- 
ury. I have met about a score of them, and some of 
the traditions I have gathered from them will bear 
repetition, as they cast light upon the lives led by the 
early settlers. One old lady, "high up near Clinch 
Mountain," told me that her mother used to relate 
how, when her father and his two brothers were at work 
in the field, she had to stand guard over them with a 
rifle. She would perch herself upon the roof of the little 
cabin, or, more often, on a knoll on the outskirts of the 
clearing, whence she could see in all directions. One 
day a score of savages came upon the three men and one 
woman, and were all put to flight, except two, who were 
left upon the ground unfit for military duty. The same 
old lady was well acquainted with the famous Parson 
Cummins, who wielded the sword of the Lord and of 
Gideon, and was in the habit of taking his rifle into his 
pulpit, and looking carefully to its priming before he 
became too much engrossed in reminding the Lord of 
what he ought to do for the frontier people. 

An aged patriarch whom I met in the vicinity of Knox- 
ville knew well Major James Cozby, of Knox County, 
who had endeared himself to all in the Territory by his 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 253 

heroic rescue of Sevier from the clutches of the North 
Carolinians. Cozby was, he said, a man of iron mold, 
standing "six feet and over in his stockings," and of so 
huge a frame that even those stalwart mountaineers 
seemed striplings beside him. His dress was that com- 
mon to the region — trousers of ordinary linsey, dyed a 
dingy red with the inner bark of the butternut, and his 
coat the famous buckskin hunting-shirt, open in front, 
and displaying a breast seamed all over with scars. 
When my informant knew him he had retired from 
the dangerous trade of killing Cherokees, and taken to 
the more peaceful pursuit of practicing upon the bodies 
of his white neighbors. He was a physician of the old 
school — one of the kill-or-cure persuasion — but, with the 
help of fresh air and out-door exercise, he managed to 
keep the country in a very healthy condition. Far and 
near, through rain and sleet and heat and cold, and at 
all hours of the day and night, he journeyed on his heal- 
ing mission, and he was always a welcome guest at every 
fireside — for he carried the children safely through the 
whooping-cough and the measles, and was never known 
to demand a dollar for his services. If a patient was 
able and willing to pay, it was very well ; if he was 
not, it was equally as well — or rather, it was better, be- 
cause it helped to swell the account which the worthy 
physician was rolling up of good deeds done in the 
body. 

With his other rare qualities the doctor was an ad- 
mirable narrator — none told a story more picturesquely ; 



254 JOHN SEVIER. 

and it may be regretted that one so competent to be the 
historian of Sevier's campaigns should have devoted all 
of his later years to dispensing calomel and ipecacuanha 
among his neighbors. He was fond of relating how, 
on one occasion, he outwitted a band of Cherokees, 
who had surrounded his house after nightfall, deter- 
mined to rid the tribe of one of its worst enemies. His 
domestic animals having given the usual signs of unrest 
by which they warned the whites of the approach of the 
savages, he looked through a port-hole, and saw obscurely 
a band of twenty stealthily secreting themselves in the 
adjoining woods and fence-corners. No one was in the 
house with him but his wife and several small children, 
the oldest of whom could only just make out to lift a 
musket ; but Cozby barricaded the door, put out the 
fire, primed his two rifles afresh, and, with his wife at 
one port-hole and himself at the other, spent the night 
in giving orders in a loud voice to his platoon of — small 
children. The ruse succeeded ; the savages were held at 
bay, and with the first streak of dawn he had the satis- 
faction to see them steal silently away into the forest, 
without so much as firing a rifle. 

Cozby used also to relate some of the many exploits 
which entitle the women of the border to a rank among 
heroines. Among others was the story of a widow, who, 
having lost her husband in the wars, resisted all entrea- 
ties to repair with her two little ones to the fort, but 
stood her ground alone in the forest, scooping a bed for 
her children under the floor of her cabin, and standing 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 255 

guard over them, night after night, with a well-primed 
rifle, till the very savages, in admiration of her intre- 
pidity, passed her on their midnight raids, and left her 
to till her little clearing in safety. 

And he also told of the wife of George Mann, whose 
house, about twelve miles above Knoxville, was once sur- 
rounded at dead of night by a band of twenty-five Chero- 
kees. Hearing a noise at his stables, Mr. Mann went 
out to ascertain the cause, when he was shot down and 
scalped by the savages. Uncertain of the fate of her 
husband, the wife locked the door, and with a rifle in 
her hand — which only that morning she had learned how 
to use — she seated herself by the entrance, and waited in 
silent expectation, surrounded by her sleeping children. 
Soon she heard approaching footsteps. Was it the neigh- 
bors, aroused by the firing, coming to the rescue ? No ! 
for, as she listened more intently, she recognized voices 
in a strange tongue. They were the Indians, thirsty for 
slaughter. The truth flashed upon her — her husband 
had been killed, and she was left to cope single-handed 
with a horde of savages, made the more savage by the 
blood they had tasted. 

She made no sound, but firmly grasped the rifle and 
leveled it carefully at the crevice of the door. Soon 
stealthy steps moved along the wall, and the door was 
pressed against by a heavy force ; in a moment it yielded 
and partly opened. A savage was there on his hands 
and knees, another was behind him, and still another, 
and a dark group was in the background. Instantly 



256 JOHN SEVIER. 

she pulled the trigger. The first savage rolled heavily to 
the ground, the second yelled with pain, and then the 
rest, hastily gathering up their dead and dying com- 
rades, fled toward the stables. Those they set on fire ; 
but they did not venture to again attack the house so 
heroically defended.* 

Other narratives as thrilling as the foregoing are 
contained in the "Knoxville Gazette," a file of which 
has been most kindly submitted to my inspection by 
the Tennessee Historical Society, of Nashville. This 
journal was started by George Eoulstone, November 
5, 1791, and was the first newspaper published be- 
yond the Alleghanies. It was a small sheet, and the 
editor seldom ventured to express an opinion, but con- 
fined himself to the easier task of chronicling passing 
events. He was the first postmaster of Knoxville, to 
which, office was sent much of the mail matter for the 
district east, and all of it for the country west, of the 
Holston. The mail arrived but twice a month, and 
on "post-day" half the town gathered round the log 
post-office, to receive their letters — if they had any — 
and to cheaply glean the news from the postman. He 
traveled on horseback, and, though the schedule time 
was thirty miles a day, lie never made the journey from 
Philadelphia in less than thirty days, and often he was as 
long as fifty on the way. Infrequent as were the mail 



* This incident is also narrated in Ramsey's " Annals of Tennessee," 
page 639. 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 257 

arrivals at Knoxville, there was absolutely no official 
mode of distributing letters received at that office for 
places within a radius of a hundred miles. But any 
horseman who was passing from one settlement to an- 
other would carry letters in his saddle-bags ; and then 
they were passed from hand to hand until they reached 
their destination. Official dispatches were often trans- 
mitted in this manner, and generally with safety. 

The receiving of a letter was a great event in a 
neighborhood, and often months passed without one 
coming to the smaller villages ; and, when one did ar- 
rive, it was the signal for the gathering together of 
all the neighbors to listen to its reading. The rates 
of postage were very high ; and, as the United States 
Government did not recognize the coon-skin currency 
of Tennessee, letters were often detained in the offices 
for months, because the recipient could not get together 
enough " Continental " to pay the postage. 

But, poor as was the postal service, it was superior 
to the facilities for traveling. There were few roads, 
and those few were simply avenues cut through the 
forest, and so encumbered with stumps, and perhaps 
with fallen trees, that passing over them was danger- 
ous and well-nigh impossible. A journey then from 
Knoxville to Philadelphia was equivalent to a voyage 
now from New York to China, and involved about as 
much preparation. Friends came together to take a 
solemn leave of the traveler, to drink his health in 
bumpers of punch, and to wish him "God-speed" on 



258 JOHN SEVIER. 

his journey. If he happened to be a public man, his 
going would be mentioned in the newspaper, and prayer 
might be offered up for his safety by the clergyman 
at church on Sunday. 

These clergymen were of a peculiar class — one which 
has disappeared altogether from the older sections of 
this country, and is now only rarely seen in the mining 
districts and back settlements of the West. Most of 
them were illiterate ; but some had considerable talent, 
and all were earnest, God-fearing men, always ready to 

"Prove their doctrine orthodox 
By apostolic blows and knocks." 

Till the advent of Bishop Asbury, of the Methodist 
Episcopal Church, in 1788, they were, almost without 
exception, of the " Hard-shell " Baptist persuasion, and 
firm believers in immersion, plenary inspiration, election, 
predestination, and reprobation. Their theory of morals 
was condensed into one phrase : " Thus saith the Lord." 
What he commands is right ; what he forbids is wrong ; 
and the Bible is his infallible word. A faith how sim- 
ple, and yet how sublime ! 

Their Sunday meetings were often seasons of great 
religious interest, and always of social union, when 
neighbors came together in a friendly way and culti- 
vated a spirit of kindliness and good-fellowship. The 
meeting-house was usually of logs, located at a cross- 
roads or on some conspicuous plot in a settlement, and 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 259 

around it were a few acres devoted to the abode of the 
dead. Great trees — the walnut, the poplar, and the lo- 
cust — shaded the little inclosure, and gave it in summer 
a picturesque beauty. To this church all resorted, for the 
Sabbath was universally observed. On this day all work 
was suspended, and high and low, rich and poor, arrayed 
in their Sunday best, wended their way, on foot or horse- 
back, through the quiet woods, to the house of prayer. 
The men were clad in clean shirts and "boughten 
clothes," the women in starched cotton gowns and new 
silk hats or sun-bonnets, and all met on the rough 
benches inside, or — when some "powerful'' preacher 
made the house to overflow — upon the grass outside the 
rude edifice. Then the preacher would give out the 
hymn, and Old Hundred — sung by several hundred 
voices — would rise upon the air, and, mingling with 
the music of the birds, float away among the neigh- 
boring trees, till the whole forest echoed with the 
melody. 

"What a blessing," says Wilberforce, "is Sunday, 
interposed between the days of the week like the di- 
vine path of the Israelites through Jordan!"' No in- 
stitution has contributed so much to the welfare of 
the human race. To it, more than to anything else, 
are due the peace and good order of every civilized com- 
munity. "Where it is neglected, are found ignorance, 
vice, disorder, and crime ; where it is observed, peace 
prevails, good morals are promoted, vice is suppressed, 
the poor are elevated, and the nation prospers. It was 



260 JOHN SEVIER. 

the influence of the Sabbath, and of the earnest men 
who ministered in those rude sanctuaries, that en- 
abled Sevier and his compatriots to mold restless 
backwoodsmen into order-loving citizens, and to plant 
a healthy, robust, manly civilization beyond the Alle- 
ghanies. 

Meanwhile population had flowed into the Territory 
with amazing rapidity, and Knoxville, its capital, had 
become a center of great activity. Though the giant 
trees still stood in and about it in primeval grandeur, 
the place wore more of a civilized appearance. Broad 
streets had been laid out, better buildings had gone up, 
and several marts of merchandise had been opened, 
which dispensed the substantial necessities, and the not 
so necessary luxuries, of the entire world among these 
rustic people of the backwoods. In the "Knoxville Ga- 
zette" of August 11, 1792, James Miller announces that 
he will receive, in exchange for all descriptions of dry- 
goods and groceries, "bear, deer, otter, wildcat, musk- 
rat, mink, fox, and raccoon skins, and all kinds of fur 
whatever ; besides beeswax, linsey, and 700 linen " ; and 
in the same journal Nathaniel and Samuel Cowan make 
a somewhat similar announcement. These last were the 
great traders of the district ; and, what is singular, at the 
distance of nearly a century, their lineal descendants are 
the principal merchants of all that wide region, doing a 
business during our recent civil war which is said to have 
mounted into the millions. If the gentlemen presiding 
over the present palatial establishment, which covers the 



PIONEER LIFE Iff 1796. 261 

half of a city square, could see the commercial edifice of 
their great-grandfathers, they would, no doubt, open 
their eyes wide in wonderment. For it was a wonderful 
store — a genuine curiosity-shop — in which was to be 
found everything that grows in the air, on the earth, 
and in the waters under the earth, including clean con- 
sciences and brave, manly hearts, that beat kindly to 
everything human. In it there were dry-goods and gro- 
ceries ; crockery and hardware ; drugs and dyestuffs ; 
guns and ammunition ; hats, caps, and brogans ; coffee 
from Brazil, and tea from China ; choice wines from Ma- 
deira, and sparkling champagnes from France — or, more 
probably, from Connecticut, and the product of vines 
growing on the trees of some apple-orchard. There was 
food also for the mind : books and stationery — slates, 
pencils, and a coarse foolscap paper, considered cheap at 
five dollars a ream. The principal books were the Bible, 
Watts's and Rippon's Hymns, the "Pilgrim's Progress," 
Baxter's " Saints' Everlasting Rest," and Dillworth's 
" Spelling-Book " — for the American " Grammatical In- 
stitute" (the first edition of Webster's Speller), though 
published more than a dozen years before, had not yet 
been adopted by the literary magnates of the backwoods ; 
and, consequently, like our English cousins, they still 
put "u" into honor and endeavor. 

All these things could be found in the store of the 
Messrs. Cowan, and many more of which I have not seen 
an inventory, and consequently can not make positive 

enumeration. And all these products of the earth, air, 

24 



262 JOHN SEVIER. 

and sea were to be had by the frontier people for a fair 
amount of peltries or legal currency. 

Let no one consider that the inventory of a country 
trader's shop is beneath the dignity of history. Such 
things mark the progress of a people in civilization ; and 
we are beginning to learn that not from the bulletins of 
battles, with their ghastly record of broken bones and 
broken hearts, should we construct the annals of a coun- 
try, but from its newspapers, the scenery its people 
looked upon, the habitations they dwelt in, and the tra- 
ditions they have handed down to their children of their 
peaceful deeds, their ways of life, their habits of thought, 
and their views upon the stirring questions which in 
their time agitated the nation. Civilized man is not now 
a mailed warrior, astride of a prancing steed, with lance 
in rest, ready to do battle to all comers. He is a home- 
keeping individual, going about in every-day clothes, 
and with an eye to the main chance ; but, nevertheless, 
he is courteous to his friends, loving to his wife, affec- 
tionate to his children, has some vague notions of his 
political rights, and entertains a reasonable hope that, by 
doing justly, loving mercy, and being regular at church 
and prayer-meeting, he will finally get to even a better 
country than this is. Of much such a character was the 
population which at this time tenanted the Western back- 
woods. They could fight, but they loved peaceful ways ; 
and their greatest conquest was that which they achieved 
over the wilderness. 

The well-filled warehouses of James Miller and the 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 263 

Messrs. Cowan, and the grist - mill of good Captain 
White, of honorable memory, drew crowds to Knoxville ; 
but greater crowds resorted there at the sessions of court 
and of the Legislature. Then many thousands came to- 
gether till they overflowed the four spacious taverns, and 
were forced to camp out upon the vacant lots, under the 
trees, or in the clumsy covered wagons which are still to 
be seen in that region. Not many years ago I met a 
very old gentleman who had, when a young boy, been 
present on one of these occasions. He thought it was in 
1796, when Sevier was first elected Governor, and had 
come to Knoxville to attend the session of the first State 
Legislature. Of this, however, he was not certain ; but 
he vividly remembered the circumstances of the occasion. 

The old gentleman said that his father lived some 
miles in the country, but he had fought under and voted 
for Sevier, and he was bound to see him open his first 
Legislature. However, he was a thrifty man, and, in 
order to hit two birds with one stone, he loaded his 
farm-wagon with "truck," to exchange at Cowan's store 
for tea and coffee and "bough ten goods" generally. 
This he did overnight, and with the first streak of dawn 
he put his span of barbered mules to the wagon and set 
out for the capital — he and his wife perched upon a high 
seat in front, and the boy behind, astride of the bag of 
corn which was to feed the animals. 

The mules were "nimble critters," and they got the 
wagon to town by ten in the morning ; but the place was 
already filled with a great crowd, all clad in their Sun- 



264 JOHN" SEVIER. 

day clothes, who had come to witness the imposing cere- 
monies of the occasion. The women were mostly arrayed 
in calico or linsey gowns, Quaker hats, or sun-bonnets, 
with neatly crimped caps, fastened underneath the chin 
by a narrow ribbon ; and the men wore linsey trousers, 
and hunting-shirts of the same material, or of clean 
buckskin, from the breast-pocket of which protruded — 
for that occasion only — a flaming red bandana. The 
shoes of all were polished into looking-glasses, with a 
mixture of soot and swine's grease ; and even the ugly 
slouched hats of the men had taken on a holiday appear- 
ance. It was an orderly, good-natured crowd, bound to 
have a good time, and to get its money's worth in a sight 
of the Governor and the high officials of the new Com- 
monwealth. 

But the boy gave little heed to the people, for his 
mind was soon engrossed in looking at the wonderful 
things in Cowan's store, to which his father had bent his 
steps as soon as he had securely tethered his mules — 
having in mind to get through with the serious business 
of the day before he gave attention to its holiday attrac- 
tions. He had scarcely finished his traffic for "store- 
goods," when a great commotion was heard in the street, 
with a mingled chorus of cheers and the Tennessee yells 
with which these people were accustomed to go into bat- 
tle. Every one rushed in hot haste out-of-doors, and the 
boy, being like Zaccheus short of stature, clambered 
upon the horse-block in front of the warehouse, where he 
could see over the heads of the multitude. 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 265 

The street was lined on both sides by an eager crowd, 
and beyond, toward the river, a cavalcade of horsemen 
was approaching. One who rode slightly in advance of 
the others was the object of especial attention. He no 
sooner came in sight, than cheer after cheer went up 
from the waiting throng, rending the air, and making 
the leaves upon the old trees to tremble. He rode a 
magnificent horse, and he sat him as if he had been born 
in a saddle. He was a man somewhat above fifty ; but 
his form was erect, his eye undimmed, and his natural 
force not yet abated. He had a genial look and an in- 
describable charm of manner, and when he spoke, as he 
occasionally did, to a by-stander, his eye actually beamed 
with kindliness. He asked about the health of a wife or 
child, or — with a merry twinkle in his eye — when the 
next young soldier was to be expected. But in all this, 
though there might be jest, there was no trace of the 
demagogue, but a hearty sincerity which drew all hearts 
to him irresistibly. As he passed along, the women 
dropped courtesies, and the men took off their hats, but 
there were no boisterous demonstrations. Their cheers 
they reserved till he was well on his way, and there was 
no longer any chance of their catching his glance of 
recognition. For this was Nolichucky Jack, their new 
Governor, and the idol of these people. 

Eiding on his right, and' as nearly abreast of Sevier 
as the latter's high-mettled horse would allow of, was 
an older and shorter man, somewhat stout, and with 
grizzled, mole-colored hair. His head was bent slightly 



266 JOH^ SEVIER. 

forward, so that the boy could see only his heavy eye- 
brows. He seemed absorbed in himself, and scarcely 
conscious of what was going on around him ; but the 
lad observed that he had prominent features, and a face 
darkened and reddened by exposure, and that the people 
paid him much attention. His dress was not so neat 
and well-fitting as Sevier's, and indeed he seemed alto- 
gether careless of his personal appearance, as if he had 
more important things to think about. " And he had," 
said the old gentleman, "for that was Eobertson, the 
pioneer of Watauga, the founder of Nashville, and the 
man who, for fifteen years, with never a thousand men, 
had fought the whole Creek and Cherokee nations." 

There were some twenty or thirty in the party of 
horsemen ; but none of the others did the old gentleman 
particularly remember, except one, in a high cocked 
hat, who rode a short way in the rear of Sevier — a slight, 
erect, wiry man, of about thirty years, who sat his horse 
as if about to charge upon an enemy. "I needn't tell 
you how he looked," said the old gentleman, "for that 
was Andrew Jackson, and his face is better known than 
any other man's in America, except George Washing- 
ton's." 

The crowd closed in on the rear of the Governor and 
his party, and the boy and his father followed to wit- 
ness the opening of the Legislature. Soon the proces- 
sion passed the new brick house of Major McLellan, a 
son-in-law of Sevier, in the wooden wing of which the 
Legislature was shortly afterward to hold its sessions, 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 267 

and then it moved on to the little log court-house in 
which the wisdom of the State was to assemble. Here 
Sevier dismounted and led the way into the building ; 
and then the legislators filed in and took their seats 
upon the rude plank benches. Many of them were men 
who, had they lived in an older community, would have 
had pages devoted to their exploits, but now their names 
are scarcely to be read except upon the map of Tennes- 
see. The backwoods people were too busy to write his- 
tory, and the State has been chary of her monuments ; 
but she has tried to perpetuate the memory of her great- 
est worthies by giving their names to her various coun- 
ties. There are to be found the names of many of the 
men who listened to the inaugural address of the new 
Governor. 

Soon Sevier mounted the platform at the end of the 
room, and delivered the address which is to be found 
in its proper place on one of the following pages. It 
was very brief, but it might be taken as a model for 
all similar documents. When he rose he was greeted 
by tumultuous cheering, and a like demonstration fol- 
lowed when he had ceased speaking. All this the boy 
saw and heard, for the doors and windows were open, 
and when he told me of it, eighty-three years afterward, 
he added, while his eye lighted up with an almost youth- 
ful enthusiasm : " He was a great man, sir ; I don't 
know that the country has had any greater ; it certainly 
has had none who was so much beloved by the people. 
He was their idol. To them his smile was a benedic- 



268 JOHN SEVIER. 

tion ; his word, an inspiration ; the touch of his hand, 
an anointing ; and yet, sir, this great State, which he 
created, lets him sleep in a distant grave, without so 
much as the simplest monument ! " 

So far as I know, only two of the old buildings which 
looked down on these scenes are now remaining. One 
of them is the brick dwelling of Major McLellan, in the 
wooden wing of which were held the subsequent sessions 
of the Legislature. When it was built, this house was 
regarded by the country people as one of the seven won- 
ders of the world, and from far and near they came to 
see such a monstrous pile of brick and mortar ; but to 
eyes accustomed to modern architecture it is a most 
unsightly structure. It is now occupied as a negro 
boarding-house. Of more inviting appearance is the 
wooden building which was the residence of William 
Blount, while he was the Governor, of the Territory. 
It shows its age, but is still in good preservation, and 
still surrounded by a well-kept garden, which one can 
easily see may have been a delight to all beholders, 
making the attractive mansion still more attractive. 
Not many years ago I wandered through its half -vacant 
rooms, and, as I looked about upon its dingy walls and 
smoke-begrimed rafters, there rose up before me a vision 
of that by-gone time — of the genial old Governor and 
his gentle lady, and of all the brave men and beautiful 
women who once made the glad music of life resound 
through its deserted chambers. And now, where are 
they ? Silence, death's music, is over and around them ; 



PIONEER LIFE IN 1796. 269 

but a beauty and a fragrance went out from their lives 
which have floated down to us, and will be felt by many 
coming generations. Men die, but their deeds live after 
them ; and the deeds of these men will live when much 
of later history is forgotten. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 

Population in the State of Franklin was at a stand- 
still during its brief and troubled existence. It con- 
tained thirty thousand people in 1784, and it was esti- 
mated to have no more when Sevier went out of office 
in March, 1788. And this was during a period when 
an unparalleled tide of emigration was sweeping oyer 
the Alleghanies. But this tide sought the more north- 
ern territory which, though equally exposed to sayage 
invasion, was not torn in a like manner by civil dis- 
sension. In 1783 the population of Kentucky was esti- 
mated at twelve thousand, and by the spring of 1784 
at twenty thousand.* In 1784, thirty thousand immi- 
grants are said to have come into the Territory from 
Virginia and North Carolina,! while 19,889 passed 
Muskingum, going down the Ohio to Kentucky, be- 
tween August 1, 1786, and May 15, 1789. J In 1790 

* Monette's " Valley of the Mississippi," vol. ii, p. 143. 
f Albach's "Western Annals," p. 419. 
% "Columbian Magazine," January, 1790. 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 271 

the population of Kentucky, by actual enumeration, was 
73,677, while it was not till 1793 that the 5,000 adult 
males were found in the Southwest Territory, which, by 
the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787, were to entitle 
it to a Territorial Legislature. 

This Legislature came together on the fourth Mon- 
day of February, 1794, and its first act was to nominate 
ten persons, from among whom Congress was to choose 
five, to serve as a Legislative Council. Among the five 
thus selected by Congress was John Sevier. This Coun- 
cil, with the Governor and the House of Delegates, con- 
stituted the first General Assembly for the Southwest 
Territory, which met in the ensuing August. The min- 
utes of the session show that Sevier took at once, and 
as a thing of course, an active part in the business of 
legislation. Being appointed by the Council to confer 
with the House of Kepresentatives as to the order to 
be observed in the transaction of business, he reported 
the following "rules of decorum" for the government 
of the Legislature, and they are here quoted as a curious 
illustration of the primitive character of the legislators, 
who stood in need of such instructions. 

1. When the Speaker is in the chair, every member 
may sit in his place with his head covered. 

2. Every member shall come into the House un- 
covered, and shall continue so at all times but when 
he sits in his place. 

3. No member on coming into the House, or remov- 
ing from his place, shall pass between the Speaker and 



272 JOHN SEVIER. 

a member speaking, nor shall any member go across the 
House, or from one part thereof to the other, while 
another is speaking. 

4. When any member stands to speak, he shall stand 
in his place uncovered, and address himself to the 
Speaker ; but he shall not proceed to speak until per- 
mitted so to do by the Speaker, which permission shall 
be signified by naming the member. 

5. When any member is speaking, no other shall 
stand or interrupt him ; but when he is done speak- 
ing, and has taken his seat, any other member may 
rise, observing the rules. 

6. When the Speaker desires to address himself to 
the House, he shall rise, and be heard without inter- 
ruption, and the member then speaking shall take his 
seat. 

7. When any motion shall be before the House, and 
not perfectly understood, the Speaker may explain, but 
shall not attempt to sway the House by arguments or 
debate. 

8. He that digresseth from the subject, to fall on 
the person of any member, shall be suppressed by the 
Speaker. 

10. Exceptions taken to offensive words, to be taken 
the same day they shall be spoken, and before the mem- 
ber who spoke them shall go out of the House. 

18. Upon adjournment, no member shall presume to 
move until the Speaker arises and goes before. 

The above rules were adopted on the second day of 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 273 

the session, and by the fourth day bills had been re- 
ported to regulate the militia of the Territory ; to 
establish judicial courts ; to make provision for the 
poor ; declaring what property should be liable to tax- 
ation ; to levy a tax for the support of government 
for 1794?; and for the relief of such persons in the 
militia as had been disabled by wounds, or rendered 
incapable of procuring, for themselves and families, 
subsistence ; and providing for the widows and orphans 
of such as had died. The paternity of the last bill is 
attributed directly to Sevier ; the speedy enactment of 
the others was no doubt largely due to the surprising 
energy that he was accustomed to infuse into any busi- 
ness with which he was connected. 

Among other acts passed by this Legislature was 
one incorporating Blount College, which subsequently 
became the University of Tennessee, and has still a 
flourishing existence. The session lasted thirty-seven 
days, the members coming together at seven o'clock in 
the morning, and remaining in session so long as they 
could see without candles. The Council assembled in 
the fort, or in the large room of the village tavern ; 
the Representatives met in a one-story log building, 
about twenty feet by thirty, which had been erected 
for a land-office. The probable expenses of the Ter- 
ritory for 1794, which had been ordered to be ascer- 
tained, were reported as "two thousand, three hundred 
and ninety dollars " ! Before their adjournment the two 

Houses concurred in a resolution requesting "the Gov- 
25 



274 JOHN SEVIER. 

ernor to direct that, when the census is taken next 
June, the sense of the people may at that time be in- 
quired into, how far it may be their wish for admis- 
sion into the Union as a State." 

The census which was held in pursuance of this 
resolution disclosed the fact that there were 77,262 peo- 
ple in the Territory, of whom nearly sixty-seven thou- 
sand were whites, and that, consequently, it was entitled 
to admission into the Union as a State. Accordingly, a 
convention was held at Knoxville on the 11th of Janu- 
ary, 1796, and a constitution adopted for a new State, 
to be called Tennessee. "Writs of election were then 
issued, which resulted in the choice of John Sevier as 
Governor. There was no opposing candidate. Thus, 
after twelve years of varied fortune, was it shown that 
Sevier was still the unanimous choice of the people. 
Until now they had not been able to express their will ; 
but from this time forward, to the day of his death, he 
was in name, as well as in fact, their leader. The ad- 
ministration of Blount had been universally satisfactory, 
but the people did not so much as consider his name for 
the office which general opinion recognized as belonging 
of right to the man who for more than twenty years had 
been the chief stay and bulwark of the Territory. How- 
ever, on the assembling of the Legislature in the follow- 
ing March, Blount was elected one of the Senators of the 
new State in Congress, William Cocke being made his 
associate Senator ; and Andrew Jackson, who had for 
some years been United States District Attorney in 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 275 

Kobertson's colony on the Cumberland, was chosen as 
Kepresentative in the Lower House of Congress. 

Sevier's first message to the Legislature on the assem- 
bling of the two Houses is a model of brevity, and well 
worthy of preservation. It was as follows : 

" Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives : 

"The high and honorable appointment conferred upon 
me by the free suffrage of my countrymen fills my breast 
with gratitude, which, I trust, my future life will mani- 
fest. I take this early opportunity to express, through 
you, my thanks in the strongest terms of acknowledg- 
ment. I shall labor to discharge with fidelity the trust 
reposed in me ; and, if such my exertions should prove 
satisfactory, the first wish of my heart will be grati- 
fied. 

" Gentlemen : accept of my best wishes for your 
individual and public happiness ; and, relying upon 
your wisdom and patriotism, I have no doubt but the 
result of your deliberations will give permanency and 
success to our new system of government, so wisely 
calculated to secure the liberty and advance the happi- 
ness and prosperity of our fellow-citizens. 

"John Seviek." 

The machinery of the new State was now in full 
operation, and it soon became apparent that the people 
beyond the mountains had entered upon a new and more 
prosperous era. Their history of twenty-six years had 



276 JOHN SEVIER. 

been a stormy one, in which, on several occasions, their 
very existence had depended upon the soldierly abilities 
of John Sevier ; but now this remarkable man was to 
display qualities equally as notable, but of a totally 
opposite character. He was to be even greater in peace 
than he had been in war ; and the autocratic power 
which he wielded by virtue of his wonderful popularity 
was to be exerted altogether for the public good. He 
saw that the prosperity of the new State depended upon 
peace, internal and external ; and this he determined to 
secure by extending absolute justice to all men — red as 
well as white — who had their homes within the limits of 
his Commonwealth. The exercise of his peace policy he 
began upon his personal enemies. Among his first ap- 
pointments were those of John Tipton, James Stuart, 
and Robert Blair as magistrates of Washington County, 
and the same John Tipton and John Blair as commis- 
sioners for the town of Jonesboro — all of which persons 
had for a long time been his personal and political 
enemies. 

In his efforts to preserve peace with the Indians, 
Sevier was aided by a recent treaty between the United 
States and Spain, by which the latter power had con- 
ceded the navigation of the Mississippi, and relinquished 
her "protection" over the Southwestern Indians.* 

* This Spanish imbroglio, which for ten years endangered the exist- 
ence of the newly-formed Union, is one of the most interesting chap- 
ters in American history ; and I shall attempt to relate it in a life of 
Kobertson, which I purpose to write in another volume. 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 277 

The condition of the settlers south of the French 
Broad and Holston was still not in every way satis- 
factory. A portion of their lands had been acquired by 
the United States under the treaty of Holston, but, no 
land-office having yet been opened, the settlers had not 
secured a legal title ; a portion also was still held by the 
Oherokees, and the settlers, holding these last only by 
right of occupancy, were fearful of future disturbances. 
Having their welfare in mind, Sevier soon addressed the 
following message to the Legislature : 

"Mr, Speaker and Gentlemen of the Legislature: 

" Permit me to remark to your honorable body that, 
as our Senators are about to proceed to the Federal Legis- 
lature, it may not be inexpedient to remind them of the 
necessity of taking under consideration the embarrassed 
situation which claimants are under to lands south of the 
line concluded on in the treaty of Holston, and now 
within the Indian boundary. 

"In my humble opinion, it is a matter of great pub- 
lic importance, and particularly interesting to the State 
and to individuals, to either have the Indian claims 
extinguished, or the adventurers compensated for their 
lands. 

" I have no doubt you will take the premises under 
due deliberation, and give your Senators such instruc- 
tions as you, in your wisdom, may deem necessary and 
advisable. Johit Sevier. " 



278 JOHN SEVIER. 

On the eve of the adjournment of this first Legisla- 
ture the Governor also brought to its attention the condi- 
tion of the frontier, advising friendship with the Indians 
as the best defense and security of the settlers. He also 
noticed the fact that the soldiers in the late campaigns 
were still unpaid, and he proposed, with the approval of 
the Legislature, "to attend in person at the next session 
of Congress, to urge upon that body payment to the 
troops for their hazardous and toilsome services." To 
this the Legislature replied, expressing solicitude that 
Congress should not only provide for the defense of the 
frontier, but should also make full compensation to the 
troops heretofore employed in that service. But it dis- 
suaded the Governor against attending upon Congress in 
person, and suggested that he should delegate the duty 
to the members of Congress from Tennessee. 

Soon thereafter Tennessee was formally admitted by 
Congress as a State of the Union, and, in communicating 
this fact to the Legislature, Sevier said, "I have the 
pleasure of announcing to you, gentlemen, the admis- 
sion of the State of Tennessee into the Federal Union, a 
circumstance pregnant with every prospect of peace, 
happiness, and opulence to our infant State. 

" The period has at length arrived when the people 
of the Southwestern Territory may enjoy all the bless- 
ings and liberties of a free and independent repub- 
lic." 

To this end this man and these people had labored 
and struggled for twelve years, and it was but natural 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 279 

that they should now felicitate themselves upon having 
at last achieved the right of self-government. 

Ke-elected Governor in 1798, Sevier soon found his 
peace policy subjected to a severe strain in consequence 
of the encroachments of settlers upon the Cherokee lands 
west of the Clinch, and in the beautiful valley along 
Powell's. River. Two companies of United States troops 
had been stationed at Knoxville for the purpose of pre- 
venting further encroachments, and the commander of 
these troops had issued a manifesto ordering all tres- 
passers off: the Indian lands. Many of the settlers had 
obeyed the order, and fallen back from the lands which 
had been conveyed to them by North Carolina ; but the 
larger number had held their ground, and defied the 
United States soldiers to attempt their removal. Be- 
tween Knoxville and Nashville and west of Clinch River 
stretched a wilderness several hundred miles in extent ; 
and a large portion of this territory had been granted 
to her soldiers by North Carolina, though not one acre 
of it had been ceded by the Cherokees in any of their 
many treaties with either the State or the United States. 

The disorder of the situation is graphically described 
by a young Englishman who journeyed over this wilder- 
ness in the summer of 1797. He was the Francis Baily 
who afterward rose to eminence as an astronomer, and 
became the founder and President of the Royal Astro- 
nomical Society. After detailing the incidents of his 
trip through the forest from Nashville, he says : 

" It will be observed, by an inspection of the map, 



280 JOHN SEVIER. 

that, from the time we took the Cumberland Mountains 
to this place, we have been traveling within the Indian 
country. The Indians keep their tract of land in full 
sovereignty, and have not yet parted with their title to it 
to the United States. But, soon after we leave the banks 
of the Clinch Kiver, we get once more within the limits 
of the State of Tennessee. After refreshing ourselves at 
the ferry, we continued our journey, intending to reach 
this evening an encampment of men, women, and chil- 
dren, which was formed between this place and Knox- 
ville. 

"These people were waiting to set out to settle some 
lands on the Tennessee Eiver, but (as there lately had 
been a dispute with the Indians with respect to the run- 
ning the line which divided their territory from the 
United States) they thought it best to wait the issue of 
the negotiation which was pending. The limits of the 
Indian territory had been fixed by the treaty of Holston ; 
but, it being some years after ere the line was actually 
run, they found (when they came to survey that part of 
the country) that a number of inhabitants had en- 
croached and settled on the Indian territory. This was 
not at all to be wondered at, as it is almost impossible to 
know where a line (drawn only upon paper) will actually 
strike when it comes to be measured. As the United 
States (agreeably to the policy which they have uni- 
versally adopted) were determined that the Indians 
should have no just cause of complaint, they ordered all 
the families which had so encroached to remove within 



THE. NEW COMMONWEALTH. 281 

the limits of the United States, and the President actu- 
ally sent a detachment of the army into the country to 
enforce his commands. 

"This was the bone of contention which was the 
subject of conversation in every place I went into. The 
inhabitants, firmly opposed being removed from their 
settlements, and they were supported in their opposi- 
tion by the encouragement of those who were within the 
limits of the United States, as they all hate the Indians, 
and think a little deviation from justice is a thing to be 
overlooked where their two interests clash with each 
other. So far does prejudice carry us ! And I believe 
the inhabitants were prepared to defend themselves 
against the soldiery with the point of the sword. Hap- 
pily, things did not come to these extremities, for it was 
discovered that the line which had been drawn by the 
surveyors was not agreeable to the treaty ; that, if it had 
been drawn right, it would not have cut off any of the 
inhabitants of the State within the Indian limits. Ac- 
cordingly, a representation of this case was made to the 
General Assembly at Knoxville, who forwarded a re- 
monstrance to the President of the United States ; and, 
at the same time, formed a number of resolutions indica- 
tive of their determination not to suffer the inhabitants 
to be turned out of their possession. Such was the state 
of the country when I was in it. 

"We reached the encampment about sunset, and, 
having kindled a fire among them and turned our 
horses into the woods to search for pasture, went round 



282 JOHN SEVIER. 

to visit the different parties we saw there. They were 
scattered over a rising ground, near which were some 
fine springs of water. They seemed to lament their situ- 
ation, in being deprived of going to settle the land which 
they had justly and fairly bought, and were so worked 
up by the apparent hardness of their case that, had 
things taken a contrary turn, I believe they would 
have forced their way by the point of the bayo- 
net."* 

Congress had passed an act imposing fines and for- 
feitures upon all who should attempt to take possession 
of any lands within the Indian boundary, and against 
this act the Legislature, at the instance of Sevier, had 
protested as follows : " This Legislature, ever willing 
to support the Constitution and laws of the United 
States, being impressed with a sense of the injury and 
grievances sustained by the citizens in consequence of 
the line of the treaty of Holston, and the act before 
mentioned, do earnestly request that the prohibitions 
preventing them to possess the lands before alluded to 
may be removed ; that provision by law be made for 
extinguishing the Indian claim to said lands ; that the 
owners and grantees of said lands may enter upon, oc- 
cupy, and possess the same in a full and ample man- 
ner, and have every right, privilege, and advantage, 
which they are entitled to by constitutional laws." 

* "Journal of a Tour in the Unsettled Parts of the United States of 
North America in 1796 and 1191." By the late Francis Baily, F. R. S., 
President of the Royal Astronomical Society. London, 1851. 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 283 

As a result of the, energetic measures taken by Se- 
vier and the Legislature for the relief of the settlers, 
Congress appointed commissioners to hold a treaty with 
the Indians for the acquisition of the lands in the dis- 
puted territory. The commissioners did not enter upon 
their duties until the summer of 1798, and meanwhile 
it required 'all the address of Sevier to prevent an out- 
break among the impatient settlers, who were encamped 
in the woods almost in sight of the lands to which 
they were entitled by legal purchase. Under date of 
Knoxville, April 23, 1798, he addressed to them a cir- 
cular, in which he counseled against any "rash and 
imprudent " proceedings, predicted the early arrival of 
the treaty commissioners, and assured " his countrymen 
that nothing should be lacking that might tend to their 
present and future advantage." 

The commissioners arrived at Knoxville in the fol- 
lowing month, and arrangements were at once made 
for their meeting the Indian chiefs early in the succeed-* 
ing July, at the Tellico block-house. The treaty-mak- 
ing power was vested solely in the United States com- 
missioners ; but Sevier appointed General James Eob- 
ertson, James Stuart, and Lachlan Mcintosh, agents to 
represent the State of Tennessee. They were to at- 
tend at the treaty to look after the interests of the set- 
tlers, and the Governor gave them written instructions 
on such points as he deemed of special importance. 
These points were : 

1. "To obtain as wide an extinguishment of the 



284 JOHN SEVIER. 

Cherokee claim, north of the Tennessee, as was attain- 
able. 

2. "An unimpeded communication of Holston *and 
Clinch Eivers with the Tennessee ; and the surrender 
of the west bank of the Clinch, opposite Southwest 
Point. 

3. "To secure from future molestation the settle- 
ments as far as they have progressed on the northern 
and western borders of the State, and the connection 
of Hamilton and Miro Districts, then separated by a 
space of unextinguished hunting-ground, eighty miles 
wide. 

4. "To examine into the nature and validity of 
the claim recently set up by the Cherokees to lands 
north of the [Little] Tennessee Eiver. Does it rest up- 
on original right ? Is it derived from treaties ? Is it 
founded only upon a temporary use and occupancy ? " 

The State agents and the United States commis- 
sioners met the Indians at the appointed time, and the 
following is the brief record which the historian Hay- 
wood makes of the proceedings : 

"The council opened. The Bloody Fellow having 
prefaced the subject, delivered a paper which he stated 
to contain their final resolutions, which were a peremp- 
tory refusal to sell, and an absolute denial to permit 
the inhabitants to return to their homes." In other 
words, all the elaborate preparations, attended with great 
expense and trouble to both the State and the United 
States, were rendered nugatory by the obstinacy of a 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 285 

few badly disposed savages, who were madly intent upon 
war with the whites. Since the death of Old Tassel, 
there had been no generally acknowledged king of the 
Cherokees. Double-Head had held dominion over the 
northern portion of the tribe, John Watts over the 
southern ; and without a war the contending claims of 
these rival chieftains could not be decided. Should a 
war with the whites occur, one of them would have a 
chance to win supremacy over the other, even if the 
nation should be defeated ; therefore both were now op- 
posed to any treaty whatever. They refused to negoti- 
ate on any terms ; but Robertson, who had more weight 
with them than any one on the treaty-ground, per- 
suaded them to meet the whites again in the follow- 
ing September. 

They did so ; and, Robertson not being able to at- 
tend, Sevier himself repaired to the treaty - ground. 
He had no sooner exchanged greetings and a few re- 
marks with the Cherokee chieftains than they assent- 
ed to such a treaty as was demanded by the whites. 
The circumstances were unchanged in every particular : 
there was the same rivalry between John Watts and 
Double-Head, and the same conviction that a war with 
the whites would bring about a settlement of their own 
disputes ; but they no sooner came in contact with Se- 
vier than they consented to a treaty which ceded to 
the whites the land already settled upon, and a much 
larger territory than had been demanded in the pre- 
vious July. And this cession was secured by the pay- 
26 



2SG JOHN SEVIER. 

ment of only five thousand dollars, with the promise of 
an annuity of one thousand. 

The arguments resorted to by Sevier to bring the 
Indians to a reasonable settlement can only be con- 
jectured. It is probable that the language he used to 
them now was much the same he had employed on pre- 
vious occasions, when he had told them that no man, 
or body of men, had a right to appropriate as mere 
hunting-grounds vast tracts of the earth's surface ; that 
the Great Spirit had designed the soil for the men who 
tilled it, and caused it to yield its natural fruits. This 
the white man did ; and the Indian must resort to his 
ways, or give place to his advance. There was no al- 
ternative. This continent was to be overspread with 
civilization. It was manifest destiny, and whoever 
should resist it would perish. He would be glad to 
live at peace with the Cherokees ; but peace or war 
was at their own election. If, however, they chose war, 
they should remember that, when he struck, his blows 
were heavy, and that he was now at the head of a hun- 
dred thousand, every man among them deadly sure with 
the rifle. 

The Cherokees chose peace, and never again, so long 
as Sevier lived, did they dig up the hatchet. And, what 
is more remarkable, from this time forward this. man, 
whom they had persistently fought for nearly twenty-five 
years, became their most trusted counselor and friend. 
In all disputes among themselves, they chose " 'Chucky 
Jack " as their umpire ; and when their rights were in- 



THE NEW COMMONWEALTH. 287 

vaded, or their lands encroached upon by the settlers — 
which was not seldom — it was to the "great eagle of the 
pale faces " that they turned for help and protection. 
And they never appealed to him in vain. However 
powerful might be their opponent, both they and he 
were sure to receive exact and impartial justice at the 
hands of the "good old Governor." 

Up to this period a large part of the people had dwelt 
in rude fortresses, termed stations, of which there were 
two or three hundred within the limits of the Territory. 
These stations were inclosed with palisades, and usually 
contained cabins enough to house from fifty to two hun- 
dred people. This involved a certain crowding of the 
population, which, in the midst of unbounded space, was 
submitted to only because it was necessary to insure 
safety from the savages. But, so soon as the absolute 
ascendency of Sevier had secured permanent peace with 
the Indians, the habits of the population, and the entire 
aspect of the country, underwent a sudden change. The 
fortified stations were abandoned, and here and there, 
over the whole country, went up detached farm-houses, 
nestling among wide-spreading trees, and overlooking 
broad, cultivated fields, laden heavily with the golden 
riches of a coming harvest. Towns and villages, too, 
sprang up as if by magic, with dwellings no longer built of 
rough logs, and intended only for security, but of painted 
weather-boarding, with glazed windows, modeled, it may 
be, after the wooden palace of Governor Blount, which 
was the first framed dwelling west of the Alleghanies. 



288 JOHN SEVIER. 

Thus it was that the stockade gave place to the neat and 
well-ordered village, in which the mechanic arts began to 
nourish, school-houses and churches to go up, and men to 
cultivate all the amenities and refinements of civiliza- 
tion. Immigration continued to flow into the country 
in such numbers that the census of 1800 showed the 
State to contain a population of not less than 105,682. 
Thus, in the space of little more than twenty-five 
years, and in the face of appalling difficulties, had Sevier 
and his compatriots built up a great commonwealth in 
the heart of the Western wilderness. In the history of 
no other people is there any similar achievement. It was 
possible only to men of the Anglo-Saxon race, and to 
them only when given a leader as wise, as heroic, and 
as self-devoted as John Sevier. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

CLOSING YEARS. 

I AM not writing a history of Tennessee. The aim of 
this volume, and of the one which has preceded it, has 
been to recount the career of the remarkable man who 
was the founder and builder of that Commonwealth ; 
and I have related the early history of the State only for 
the reason that his life was so interwoven with its early 
life that one can not be told without relating the other. 
The same remark applies to Sevier's subsequent career, 
for to the very last he was the soul of the Commonwealth 
he had created. 

But we have now arrived at a period in his life, and 
in that of the State, when to both may be applied the 
saying, "Happy are the people whose annals are va- 
cant." To this man, whose career had been until now 
one long struggle, and to this State, which was cradled 
in the midst of perils, nurtured amid external and inter- 
nal strife, and time and again had been saved from de- 
struction only by the single hand and brain of this one 
man, had come a season of repose — an unbroken period 
of peace and prosperity, barren of incident, and unruffled 



290 JOHN SEVIER. 

by a single one of those striking events which form the 
staple of most histories. To the State it was peace, and 
such prosperity as was then unknown to any of the six- 
teen States, except the neighboring one of Kentucky; 
and to Sevier it was peace and such abounding honor, 
both at home and abroad, as was accorded to but few of 
the men of his generation. We have seen that, when but 
recently an outlaw, he was given by Washington sole 
command of the men of Watauga ; so now, in 1798, on 
the recommendation of Washington, he was appointed by 
President Adams a brigadier-general in the army that 
was forming to resist the arrogant encroachments of 
France. But the war-cloud passed away, and left Sevier 
sitting in peace " under his own vine and fig-tree." 
With a passing glance at him there, I will close this im- 
perfect record of his life, which has been written in the 
hope that it may recall to his countrymen the great 
services he rendered to American freedom and Western 
civilization. 

At the close of Sevier's second term he was again 
unanimously elected Governor, and then, having served 
six consecutive years, he was, by the Constitution he had 
helped to frame, not again eligible for the position till 
the expiration of two years. During this interval the 
office was filled by Archibald Eoane ; but at its close the 
people again put Sevier in nomination, and he was again 
elected without an opposing candidate. Two more unan- 
imous elections succeeded, he serving another consecu- 
tive six years ; and then, feeling old age coming upon 



CLOSING YEARS. 291 

him, he declined any further nominations for the office. 
But the people would not dispense with his services. 
They at once elected him to Congress, and they kept him 
there by three successive elections, of the last of which 
he probably never heard, for it occurred while he was 
away in the Creek country, where he died at the age 
of seventy years, having been for fifty-two years — since 
he was a boy of eighteen — in the active service of his 
country. 

During all of this long period Sevier was a leader of 
men, and a prime mover in the important events which 
occurred beyond the Alleghanies. For thirty years of 
this time he was engaged in almost constant warfare ; and, 
though his men were altogether volunteers, and he, until 
after the battle of King's Mountain, commanded without 
a commission, and merely as an elected leader, there never 
was known so much as a whisper of insubordination 
among them. Without fear or question they followed 
wherever he led, even upon the most desperate expedi- 
tions ; and the wave of his sword, the sound of his voice, 
was enough to transform the most timid among them 
into heroes. 

And the sway of Sevier was as potent and undisputed 
in civil as in military affairs. Aided by North Carolina, 
a few factious and ambitious men had attempted for a 
time to undermine his authority, but their efforts were fu- 
tile ; and, from the moment of his reconciliation to the 
"mother-State," all opposition to him ceased, and, no mat- 
ter what official position he held, ever afterward he was 



292 JOHN SEVIER. 

the autocrat of the backwoods. The Governors who suc- 
ceeded him had only a nominal authority. So long as he 
lived, he was the real seat of power. On all questions of 
importance, the people asked, " What says the good old 
Governor ? " They might differ from him in opinion, 
but when they did they questioned their own judgments, 
and submitted cheerfully to his decisions. This they did 
because experience had shown that he was always right. 
The same genius which governed his military operations, 
and made victory a foregone conclusion, enabled him to 
forecast civil results, and to lead his people on by peace- 
ful ways to prosperity and greatness. 

A rule like his was never before or since known in 
this country. It was made possible only by the peculiar 
genius of Sevier, and the primitive character of the peo- 
ple he governed. Untrained in the military art and ig- 
norant of governmental science, they were building up 
a great empire. This they knew, and naturally they 
looked to the man who had the ability to shield them 
from danger and to guide them on the road to permanent 
peace and prosperity. And it is Sevier's peculiar glory 
that he did this without any thought of self — never once 
looking to his own profit, or fame, or honor. It is said : 
" Whosoever would become great among you shall be 
your minister ; and whosoever would be first among you 
shall be your bond-servant." Of this nature was Sevier's 
greatness — dwarfed by no' selfish ends, and inspired and 
nourished wholly by a single regard for the good of 
his fellow-men. This accounts for the fact that the 



CLOSING YEARS. 293 

trans- Alleghany people were welded by him, as it were, 
into one individual, with but one heart, one mind, and 
one purpose ; and these all centered in one great brain 
and heart, which was the moving force of the whole. 
They were the body, he was the soul ; and, had it not 
been so, Western civilization might have had a different 
fate in the eighteenth century. 

A little incident will illustrate Sevier's wonderful 
popularity, and show how, in the remotest cabins, par- 
ents spoke of him to their children with such unbounded 
affection and admiration that the little ones came to re- 
gard him as some superior being — a sort of demi-god, 
entitled to their unquestioning allegiance. I had the 
anecdote from a gentleman of Knoxville,* who long ago 
was told it by the old man who had been a party to the 
occurrence. The aged countryman first saw Sevier when 
he was a lad of some six or seven years, but he had heard 
much of him from his very infancy, and his young im- 
agination had magnified him into a sort of heroic demi- 
god. One Sunday, when all the settlement had gathered 
for religious services in the cross-roads meeting-house, 
a hatless man rushed into the sacred building, shouting 
thai Nolichucky Jack was coming up the road on his 
way to Virginia. At once the Sunday services were sus- 
pended, and every one turned out — even the minister. 
They found the road lined with men and women, for the 
news had spread far and wide, and all had come together 

* Hon. William A. Henderson. 



294 JOHN SEVIER. 

to welcome the idol of the people. Soon Sevier came in 
sight, walking his horse, and followed by a cavalcade of 
gentlemen. Nobody cheered or shouted, but all pressed 
about him to get a look, a smile, a kindly word, or a nod 
of recognition from their beloved Governor. And these 
he had for all, and all of them he called by name ; and 
this, it is said, he could do to every man and woman in 
the State, when they numbered more than a hundred 
thousand. The boy's father had been a soldier under 
Sevier, and when the Governor came abreast of him he 
halted his horse, and took the man and his wife by the 
hand. Then reaching down, and placing his hand on 
the boy's head, he said : "And who have we here ? This 
is a little fellow I have not seen." That he was noticed 
by so great a man made the boy inexpressibly proud and 
happy ; but could this affable, unassuming gentleman be 
the demi-god of his young imagination ? This was the 
thought that came to the boy, and he turned to his 
father, saying, "Why, father, 'Chucky Jack is only a 
man ! " But that was the wonder of the thing— how, 
being only a man, he had managed to capture the hearts 
of a whole people. 

The devotion of the men of the border to Sevier is 
without any parallel in American history. His will was 
literally their law, but it was law regulated by a kind- 
ness which sprang from a great, loving soul. This all 
men knew and respected; and I think it may be said 
that they refrained from strife, and violence, and crime, 
less because it would subject them to punishment, than 



CLOSING YEARS. 295 

because of the pain their misdoings would inflict upon 
the heart of the "good old Governor." Though, as a 
class, impatient of restraint, and of somewhat reckless 
characteristics, crime was almost unknown among them. 
For years there was no State's prison in the State, and 
the jail at Knoxville — fourteen feet square — was seldom 
afflicted with a tenant. There were courts, and judges, 
and juries ; but Sevier was the court of last resort — the 
supreme judge, the final jury. Was any one — white man 
or red — aggrieved, he complained to the Governor ; did 
two men differ, they submitted their controversy to him ; 
were some of his old comrades in poverty or distress, they 
appealed to their old commander, and he always found 
some way to give them relief and assistance, though he 
had impoverished himself in defending his country, and 
was in his old age reduced to a meager pittance of a 
thousand dollars a year. 

But it must not be inferred from this that society be- 
yond the mountains had reached that happy condition 
wherein men have only minor differences, easily settled 
by arbitration, and that courts of law had become en- 
tirely obsolete. The men of the backwoods had not alto- 
gether given over backbiting and bickering, torn down 
their log temples of justice, and unanimously agreed to 
submit all disputes to the decision of one man, whose 
clear brain would rightly estimate and impartially weigh 
both sides, and whose great heart would infallibly temper 
justice with the gentle dews of mercy. It was not so. 
It has not anywhere in this world been so since Adam 



296 JOHN" SEVIER. 

migrated from Eden, and Cain committed the first crime 
of which there is historical record ; and it will not be so 
for the next fifty thousand years, if the laws of heredity 
hold good, and universal man does not imbibe the spirit 
of the loving Christ, who came to earth to tell us that love 
is the grand motive power of the universe. Ever since 
man first transgressed the law, there have been legal tri- 
bunals, and they were to be found among these primitive 
people. But the courts sat only twice a year, and often 
their sessions were of not more than a week's duration. 
Their dockets were lean, and their rough benches de- 
serted, because of the loving influence of one man, whose 
brotherly kindness had permeated the whole community. 
There were but seven lawyers in the entire Territory 
when it numbered nearly one hundred thousand people, 
and even they had caught some of Sevier's spirit, if the 
manifesto of one of them is any indication of the princi- 
ples of the rest of the fraternity. I find this manifesto 
in the advertising columns of the "Knoxville Gazette," 
of April 6, 1793, and it deserves preservation. It is 
headed — 

"Fiat Justitia." 

And it goes on to say : "Having adopted the above 
motto, as early as I had the honor of admission to the 
bar, I have covenanted with myself that I will never 
knowingly depart from it ; and on this foundation I 
have built a few maxims which afford my reflection an 
unspeakable satisfaction : 



CLOSING YEARS. 297 

"I. I will practice law, because it offers me oppor- 
tunities of being a more useful member of society. 

"II. I will turn a deaf ear to no man because bis 
purse is empty. 

" III. I will advise no man beyond my comprehen- 
sion of his cause. 

"IV. I will lead none into law whom my conscience 
tells me should be kept out of it. 
- "V. I will never be unmindful of the cause of hu- 
manity, and this comprehends the fatherless and widow, 
and those who are in bondage. 

"VI. I will be faithful to my client, but never so 
unfaithful to myself as to become a party to his crime. 

"VII. In criminal cases I will not underrate my own 
abilities ; for, if my client proves a rascal, his money is 
better in my hands, and, if not, I hold the option. 

"VIII. I will never acknowledge the omnipotence of 
legislation, nor consider its acts to be law when against 
the spirit of the Constitution. 

"IX. No man's greatness shall elevate him above the 
justice due to my client. 

"X. I will not consent to a compromise when I con- 
ceive a verdict essential to my client's future reputation or 
protection ; for of this he can not be a competent judge. 

"XL I will advise the turbulent with candor, and, if 
they persist in going to law against my advice, they must 
pardon me for volunteering it against them. 

" XII. I will acknowledge every man's right to man- 
age his own case if he pleases. 
27 



298 JOHN SEVIER. 

" The above are my rules of practice, and though I 
will not at this critical juncture promise to finish my 
business in person, I will, if the public service should re- 
quire my removal hence, do everything in my power for 
those who like them ; and endeavor to leave them in 
proper hands if I should be absent. 

"William Tatham. 

" Knoxville, March 23, 1793." 

Sevier's justice knew neither rich nor poor, but his 
heart beat the warmest and his hand was the most open 
to those who had fallen by the way in the struggle of 
life, or had most severely felt the rough bufferings of 
poverty. So long as he had wealth it flowed out to such 
in abounding measure, and when he could no longer give 
of his substance he gave them himself — in his influence, 
his provident care, his never-ceasing effort to ameliorate 
their condition. Government, he said, should be the 
guardian of the poor, the widow, and the fatherless ; and 
there is not one of his messages to the Legislature, that 
escaped the ravages of the Vandal fire which consumed 
Dr. Ramsey's dwelling during the Union occupation of 
Knoxville, which does not have some reference to the 
needs or make some suggestion for the benefit of the 
"less fortunate of our fellow-citizens," whom he recom- 
mends to their "paternal care and wisdom." One of 
these messages is now before me, and it so fully reveals 
the man, and clearly sketches the condition of the young 
Commonwealth, that I copy the entire document. It is 



CLOSING YEARS. 299 

dated September 19, 1799, and, according to the custom 
of the time, was delivered in person to the assembled 
Senators and Representatives, who subsequently respond- 
ed to it through the Speakers of the two Houses. The 
message was as follows : 

66 Mr. Speaker, and Gentlemen of the Senate and of the 
House of Representatives : 

"It is with peculiar satisfaction that I have the 
honor this day of meeting your august body in this 
house, where I have the pleasure of informing you that 
the State is blessed with peace and quietude — the fields 
of the husbandman abundantly supplied with the fruits 
of the earth, our harvests yielding to the laborer ample 
satisfaction for his toils. 

"The laws and regular decorum, so far as comes 
within my knowledge, are duly observed and supported 
throughout the government. Emigration and popula- 
tion are daily increasing, and I have no doubt that — 
under the propitious hand of Providence, your patron- 
age, and the wise and wholesome laws which you in your 
wisdom may enact — our State will become more and 
more respectable and conspicuous, and that its citizens 
will enjoy all the happiness and comfort this human life, 
in an ordinary course, can afford them. 

"The poor and the distressed claim the first share of 
your deliberations, and I have not the smallest doubt 
your attention will be duly directed to them, and to 
every other object worthy of legislative consideration. 



300 JOHN SEVIER. 

Among other things, gentlemen, permit me again to re- 
mind you that the landed estates of your constituents, in 
general, appear to be verging on to a very precarious and 
doubtful situation, and should a timely interference be 
neglected it may become a subject of very great regret. 
I, therefore, beg leave to recommend that, so far as it 
may be consistent with the cession act and good public 
faith, you provide, in the most ample manner, for the 
security and peaceful enjoyment of all such property as 
may appear to be in jeopardy. 

"■I now proceed to enjoin on you the great necessity 
of promoting and encouraging manufactories, and estab- 
lishing warehouses and inspections of various kinds. 
These will give a spring to industry, and enable the agri- 
cultural part of the community to export and dispose of 
all the surplus part of their bulky and heavy articles. 
Providence has blessed this State with a soil peculiarly 
calculated for the production of wheat, hemp, flax, cot- 
ton, tobacco, and indigo ; it abounds with ores and min- 
erals, and has navigable rivers amply sufficient to enable 
us to export to the best of markets. This being the 
case, gentlemen, you will readily conceive how essentially 
necessary it is for the encouraging and promoting of all 
the advantages enumerated, that you lend to them your 
early legislative aid and patronage. 

"Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representa- 
tives, I am deeply and sensibly impressed with the honor 
conferred on me by my fellow-citizens, in electing me for 
a third time to preside as the Chief Magistrate of the 



CLOSING YEARS. 301 

State. I earnestly wish I possessed greater abilities and 
talents to enable me to discharge the important duties, 
trust, and confidence they have reposed in me ; but rest 
assured that, so far as I am able, nothing will be lacking 
or neglected by me that may tend toward the interest, 
welfare, and safety of the State. Before I close this ad- 
dress, I can not forbear requesting a harmony of meas- 
ures in your councils, and that you unite in endeavoring 
to promote our dearest rights and interests. I have the 
fullest hope that by your wisdom and policy you will 
secure to our country the advantages and respect to 
which it is entitled, and has a right to enjoy. 

"(Signed) John Seviek." 

To this address the House and Senate replied, through 
their Speakers, as follows : 

" To Ms Excellency Johh Sevier, Governor of the State 
of Tennessee. 
" Sir : It is with peculiar satisfaction that the Senate 
and House of Kepresentatives have received your commu- 
nication, announcing to them that our State is crowned 
with the blessings of peace and quietude ; that the toils 
of the husbandman are amply rewarded with abundant 
crops ; that the laws throughout the State are well and 
duly executed ; and that emigration and population are 
daily increasing. And we beg leave now to assure you 
that, under the directing hand of the all-seeing Provi- 
dence, nothing on our part shall be wanting to increase 



302 JOHN SEVIER. 

the respectability of our rising State, and promote the 
welfare and happiness of our constituents. 

"Receive, sir, our assurance that the matters and 
things contained in your address, and recommended to 
us as subjects of legislation, shall meet with that investi- 
gation and deliberation which the importance of the dif- 
ferent subjects requires. 

"We beg leave, sir, to express our gratification at 
being the witness of your being once more called, by the 
unanimous suffrage of the freemen of Tennessee, to the 
seat of Chief Magistrate of the State, and to express 
our public confidence that you will continue to execute 
the duties which appertain to your office with that firm- 
ness, judgment, and impartiality which have heretofore 
characterized you as the Chief Magistrate of Tennessee." 

On the last day of the previous session of the Legis- 
lature, it made to Sevier an address, which is notable 
from its having been signed by William Blount, the 
former Governor of the Territory, and then Speaker of 
the Senate, and by James Stuart, the aforetime adherent 
of Tipton, and enemy of Sevier, who was Speaker of the 
House of Representatives. Of John Tipton himself all 
trace from this time (1798) disappears. Whether he had 
died, or had retired, like Cincinnatus, to his farm, I have 
not been able to discover. The address was as follows : 

" To John" Sevier, Governor of the State of Tennessee : 
"The communications you have thought proper to 



CLOSING YEARS. 303 

make to both Houses of the General Assembly, at the 
commencement and during the present session, afford 
additional proof of the care which hath always marked 
your official character since the first appointment to your 
present station. 

"In the course of the present session the Legislature 
hath taken into consideration the subject of your several 
communications, and acted upon the same consistent 
with the exigency. 

" The General Assembly, having finished the business 
before them, propose to adjourn this evening, without 
day." 

These addresses exhibit the regard in which the 
"good old Governor" was held by the Tennessee Legis- 
lature. The trust and confidence of the people in him 
was shown by their six times choosing him unanimously 
their Governor, and by their subsequently electing him 
with the same unanimity, on three successive occasions, 
to the Congress of the United States. Such repeated 
and unanimous expressions of trust, esteem, and affection 
have never been accorded to any other public man in this 
country. 

But this man, so universally beloved, was not without 
his enemies, and one of these was no less a personage 
than Andrew Jackson, subsequently President of the 
United States, but who at this time had achieved no 
particular distinction. Since 1788 Jackson had been in 
the practice of the law in Kobertson's colony on the 



304 JOHN" SEVIER. 

Cumberland, and, observing his energy and fearless prose- 
cution of offenders, and perhaps thinking well of his legal 
ability, Sevier, in 1798, appointed him a Judge of the 
Superior Court of Law and Equity of the newly formed 
State. Their subsequent relations seem to have been 
friendly until 1803, when the position of major-general 
in the Tennessee militia was about to become vacant, and 
Jackson made application for the appointment. The 
office was an important one, inasmuch as, under the 
Governor, the major-general had control of the entire 
military force of the State. 

To make sure of securing the position he coveted, 
Jackson sought a personal interview with Sevier, and 
pressed upon him his claims to the office. Naturally dis- 
inclined to intrust duties so responsible to a man who 
had no knowledge of the military art, nor any martial 
experience beyond that to be gained in a bar-room brawl, 
or a scrimmage at a cross-roads, the Governor received 
Jackson's proposals with decided coolness. But the 
cooler he grew the hotter became the applicant, and he 
soon broke into the absurd gasconading which, according 
to his biographers, he occasionally indulged in, even 
when accumulated years should have taught him better 
manners. He had been, prior to 1795, a private in one 
or two Indian fights under Sampson Williams, a noted 
captain of Kobertson's, and he probably boasted of these 
exploits, of which there are still traditions in Nashville. 
This disgusted Sevier, who was embodied frankness, and 
had a peculiarly sarcastic smile by which he put down 



CLOSING YEARS. 305 

officious pretension. He said to Jackson that he had 
never heard of any of his military exploits, except his 
carrying away of another man's wife. The allusion was 
to the fact tnat not long before Jackson had escorted his 
future wife, then Mrs. Kobards, to Natchez, to remove 
her from the persecution of a brutal husband. The 
event created a great scandal at the time, but there can 
be no question that the relations between Jackson and 
Mrs. Robards were innocent, and that she was justified in 
fleeing from her husband. To the end of his life Jack- 
son was extremely sensitive to any disparaging allusions 
to his wife, and he now promptly challenged Sevier to a 
duel. Jackson was but thirty-six, Sevier nearly sixty 
— an age when even military men are exempted from the 
practice of human slaughter ; but the custom of the 
time regarded dueling as the genteel mode of healing 
differences between gentlemen, and Sevier accepted the 
challenge, by writing Jackson the note which follows : 

u Knoxville, October 2, 1803. 

"Sir: Yours to-day, by Andrew Whithe, Esq., I 
have received, and am pleased with, the contents, so far 
as respects a personal interview. 

"Your ungentlemanly and gasconading conduct of 
yesterday, and, indeed, at all other times heretofore, 
have unmasked you to me and to the world. The 
voice of the Assembly has made you a judge, and this 
alone renders you worthy of my notice, or that of any 



306 JOHN SEVIER. 

other gentleman. To the office I have respect, and 
this only makes you worthy of notice. 

"I shall wait on you with pleasure at any time 
and place not within the State of Tennessee, attended 
by my friend, with pistols, presuming you know noth- 
ing about the use of any other arms. Georgia, Virginia, 
and North Carolina are in our vicinity, and we can 
easily repair to either of those places, and conveniently 
retire into the inoffending government. You can not 
mistake me or my meaning. 

"Yours, etc., etc., 

"John- Sevier. 

" Hon. A. Jackson." 

To this Jackson replied that it was in the town of 
Knoxville that Sevier had taken the name of a lady 
"into" his polluted lips, and in the neighborhood of 
Knoxville he should atone for it, or he would publish 
him as "a coward and a poltroon." 

Sevier then dispatched to Jackson his second, with 
a note, saying the gentleman would arrange upon a 
"time and place of rendezvous." No arrangement 
was made, for Jackson insisted on a meeting in the 
vicinity of Knoxville. Some correspondence ensued, 
which Sevier closed by a note in which he said : ' ' An 
interview within the State you know I have denied. 
Anywhere outside, you have nothing to do but to 
name the place and I will the time. I have some re- 
gard for the laws of the State over which I have the 



CLOSING YEARS. 307 

honor to preside, although you, a judge, appear to have 
none.*'* 

This closed the correspondence, but it did not pacify 
the irate Jackson, who soon afterward made an assault 
upon Sevier in the streets of Knoxville. Both were 
mounted, and Sevier was surrounded by about twenty 
horsemen. Jackson was much more thinly attended, 
and armed only with a cane and a brace of pistols ; 
but, putting his cane in rest, like the lance of a plumed 
knight, he charged down upon Sevier most furiously. 
The latter dismounted to meet the assault ; but a col- 
lision was prevented by the attending gentlemen, who 
soon pacified Jackson, and induced him to give his hand 
to the Governor. 

But they never became friends, and, indeed, they 
could not well be, for they could not meet on any \) 
common ground of fraternity. Both were brave, honest, 
and intensely patriotic ; but in all other respects they 
were as far asunder as the antipodes. Jackson was a 
born fighter, by his very nature aggressive, and delight- 
ing to struggle with men, either with arms or in the 
political arena ; and it was this trait which made him, 
though essentially just, kind, and good, the best-hated 
man who has lived in this country. Sevier, on the 
contrary, though he had a genius for war, was by 

* This correspondence appeared in full, some years ago, in the " Cin- 
cinnati Commercial " ; and it is quoted entire by Professor Clayton, in 
his " History of Davidson County." Mr. Clayton has, however, I think, 
fallen into error in regard to some of the attending circumstances. 



/ 






308 JOHN SEVIER. 

nature a man of peace and a lover of harmony. He 
was kindly affectioned to all, high and low, white man 
and red, and ever ready to sacrifice for the meanest, 
rest, comfort, and property. Moreover, he had a strict 
regard for decorum, was a born gentleman, actually 
loathing the low sports and roistering gasconade to 
which Jackson was at this time addicted. Sevier never 
regained his respect for this man, who was so strangely 
destined to rise to the highest station, and even in his 
retired old age to control so absolutely the politics of this 
country. When Jackson's fame was at its zenith, and 
the country was ringing with his military successes, 
Sevier would not admit that he had the ability to com- 
mand, and, in a letter to his son, severely criticised 
his conduct of the Creek campaign.* 

But, though apparently reconciled to Sevier, Jack- 
son's feeling toward him continued to be extremely 
bitter. Soon after the events just narrated, his brother- 
in-law, Donelson, was indicted for frauds in the sale of 
lands, and at once Jackson charged that Sevier was 
implicated in the transactions. The charge was speedily 
disproved, and from the first the people knew it to be 
absurd, for, with eVery ability and facility for making 
money, Sevier was so poor that, but for his wife's ex- 
cellent management of his plantation, he could not 
have supported his family. But the charge showed 
the animus of Jackson, who never forgot a friend or 
forgave an enemy. 

* See "Rear-Guard of the Revolution," page 314. 



CLOSING YEARS. 309 

Sevier was poor. For more than twenty years his 
means had been exhaustively drawn upon for the equip- 
ment and support of the men who under him had 
fought for the country against both the British and 
the Indians ; and the consequence was that, though 
free from debt, he had nothing but his plantation and 
a meager pittance of seven hundred and fifty dollars a 
year during his first term as Governor of Tennessee. 
He had rendered vast and vital services to the country, 
and at the sacrifice of about all he possessed, but he 
had never thought of asking remuneration from a gov- 
ernment that was quite as poor as he was. Blount, 
who had just gone out of office as Governor of the 
Territory, had lived in a style' of elegance not common 
to the backwoods ; and it was but natural that Sevier 
should feel it incumbent upon him to support a town 
residence somewhat in harmony with the dignity of 
the new State. Accordingly, not realizing exactly how 
poor he was — as few men do who have been reduced 
from affluence to poverty — he bought a house-lot in 
Knoxville, and, soon after his first election as Governor, 
began the erection of a spacious brick mansion. How- 
ever, when the building had arrived at the top of the 
basement story, he found himself in the position of 
the one in Scripture, who began to build, and was not 
able to finish. He had a horror of debt ; so, like an 
honest man, he went no further, but, selling his lot and 
unfinished house, he paid off his workmen, and then, 

like Cincinnatus, retired to his farm, where he ever 
28 



310 JOHN SEVIER. 

afterward lived, making his home, when obliged to be 
in Knoxyille on official business, with his son-in-law, 
Major McLellan, in the new brick house which has 
been mentioned. The unfinished house was bought by 
a Mr. John Park, and it is yet standing, and the property 
of his descendants. Mr. Park completed it after the 
plans of Sevier ; but he used a somewhat differently 
colored brick in its construction, so that the line where 
Sevier left off and Park began was distinctly visible. 
That line has remained to this day, a speaking monu- 
ment to the poverty, unflinching honesty, and demo- 
cratic good sense of the first Governor of Tennessee. 

Near the main road leading to Sevierville, and about 
five miles from the city of Knoxville, in a deserted 
and worn-out field, are the ruins of an old log station. 
During the war between Sevier and the Oherokces for 
the protection of the French Broad settlers, the place 
became the refuge of a number of families, and it had 
been a frontier post before Knoxville was settled. It 
was in a secluded and picturesque region, where a copi- 
ous spring gushes forth from a spur of Bay's Mount- 
ain. The surrounding land was bought by Sevier when, 
about 1790, he took up his abode on the frontier, to 
be nearer to the hostile Indians. The buildings he at 
once enlarged, and he kept on adding to them year 
by year — one log-house being tacked to another — till 
the structure more resembled a hamlet than a single 
dwelling. Here he lived ever after his futile effort at 
building a town mansion, in a style of rustic sim- 



CLOSING YEARS. 311 

plicity, going into town about every morning, and return- 
ing at night, and always on horseback, for to the yery last 
of his life he was never so much at home as when in 
the saddle. He was a superb horseman, and always 
rode a magnificent animal. 

The principal apartment in the Governor's house 
was the reception-room, which occupied the whole of one 
of the cabins, and was furnished in a manner approach- 
ing to elegance, its puncheon floor being partly covered 
on great occasions with an imported carpet, which had 
been presented to the " Governor's wife," as the lady was 
universally styled, by some one of her seaboard admirers. 
But the precious rug never made its appearance except 
to honor some distinguished guest — some high home 
official or titled foreigner — whom curiosity or business 
had brought into the backwoods. They had no sooner 
gone than it was carefully dusted and rolled away to one 
side of the room by Jeff and Susy, old servants, who 
had been reared in the family. It was never known to 
remain on the floor overnight but on the single occasion 
when, in 1798, Louis Philippe and his brothers were on 
a visit to the Governor. 

In this primitive mansion Sevier kept open house 
and entertained his guests in a style of genuine back- 
woods hospitality. His guests were numerous, for no 
stranger came into the country without calling upon 
the Governor, and his old companions in arms often so 
thronged upon him that the house could not contain the 
crowd, and some of them had to find lodgings in the 



312 JOHN SEVIER. 

stables — which, however, was no great hardship, for the 
Governor's barns were about as palatial as his dwelling. 
Here, too, came the Indian chiefs — John "Watts, Double 
Head, and Esquetau (the Bloody Fellow), whom he 
had so often and so severely punished — to stretch their 
moccasins before the great wood-fire, eat of the Gov- 
ernor's venison, and ask his advice upon the important 
affairs of their nation. Dr. Ramsey, who lived near, and 
knew Sevier well — he not dying till Ramsey was eighteen 
years old — told me that the Indian chiefs were frequent 
visitors, and he never knew a time when one or more of 
Sevier's old soldiers were not quartered at the mansion ; 
and that he thought none of them ever came to him with 
a worn-out nag, broken down by a long journey, but the 
Governor asked him, on his going away, to exchange his 
old horse for one of his own blooded animals, of which 
he always kept the largest and finest stud to be found 
anywhere west of the Alleghanies. " This was not 
strange," said Dr. Eamsey, "for every man in the State 
regarded the Governor as his personal friend, and looked 
upon him and all that he had as public property ; and 
in return the Governor considered all, especially the poor 
and needy, as his children, and so entitled to all he 
had of time, thought, and possessions." 

The nearest neighbors of Sevier were his old com- 
patriots and devoted friends, James "White, James Cozby, 
Francis A. Ramsey, the father of the historian, and the 
John Adair of whom I have made honorable mention 
in a previous volume. With them and his family he 



CLOSING YEAES. 313 

was a regular attendant on Sunday services, in a little 
stone church, at a hamlet called Lebanon, about half 
a mile distant from his dwelling. He had a pew of 
his own, but he usually sat with his tried and trusty 
friend Cozby, in a high-backed, old-fashioned enclosure, 
on the left of the aisle, and near the front entrance. On 
such occasions he doffed his usual backwoods costume of 
hunting-shirt and sword, and appeared as the old-time 
country gentleman — in three-cornered hat, powdered hair, 
ruffled shirt, and citizen's clothes generally. His de- 
meanor in church was grave and reverential, and he never 
failed to give respectful attention to the services ; but the 
strong Calvinism of the pastor, the Rev. Samuel Car- 
rick, was not to his liking. He was too democratic in 
feeling to accept a creed which elects a few to happi- 
ness, and consigns all the rest of the human race to 
eternal reprobation, which doctrine at that time was the 
popular one throughout the country. He could not 
credit such a faith, and it may be that for this reason 
he was never a church-member ; for he could not be 
a hypocrite — professing what he did not believe. And 
yet he had a firm faith in Providence, and was a 
man of deeply religious feeling — which grew deeper 
as old age stole upon him, and he came nearer to the 
end of his earthly journey. Once, after the expiration 
of his last term as Governor, he said to a gentleman 
who had reminded him of his 'great services to the 
country and to Western civilization: "I am not en- 
titled to the credit, sir; I have been merely an instru- 



314 JOHN SEVIER. 

ment — led, and guided, and guarded by the Infinite 
Goodness." 

Near the close of his term in Congress he was asked 
by President Monroe to act as United States commis- 
sioner in running the boundary-line between Georgia 
and the Creek nation. Though much enfeebled by age 
and infirmity, he accepted the appointment. The labor 
was too great for his strength, and, worn out with his 
work, he succumbed in the summer heat to the fever 
incident to the season in that climate, and died in his 
tent, surrounded only by soldiers and a few Indian 
chieftains, on the 24th of September, 1815, in his 
seventy-first year. There they made his grave, and 
there his body lies to-day ; over it merely a simple 
slab, on which is rudely cut the name "John 
Sevier." 

When tidings of his death reached Tennessee, the 
whole State went into mourning. For the space of 
thirty days every public building was draped in black, 
and all the State officials wore crape upon their arms. 
A general sorrow was diffused throughout Tennessee 
and the whole Western country. And well might the 
people mourn, for "a great man had fallen in Israel." 
I have called him a hero, a soldier, and a statesman ; 
but he was more than all these : he was a civilizer, 
a great organizer, a nation-builder. He found Tennes- 
see a little cluster of log-houses, and he left it a great 
State, with happy homesteads, and smiling villages, and 
populous cities, in which were palatial dwellings and 



CLOSING YEARS. 315 

magnificent temples, and a population of nearly four 
hundred thousand souls. 

To this day Tennessee has left him without a monu- 
ment ; and it may be said that no monument can so 
well proclaim his greatness as the great State which 
he builded. This may be true, and yet we do honor to 
ourselves and our common nature when we rear me- 
morials to such men ; and it is fitting that we should 
preserve their names and deeds in ever-during brass 
and marble, for they come to us only now and then 
through the centuries. 



INDEX. 



Anderson, Joseph, appointed Terri- 
torial judge by Washington, 
223. 

Baily, Francis, description of the 
country in 1797, 279-282. 

Bancroft, George, his opinion of the 
early North Carolinians, 3. 

Bledsoe, Anthony, letter to Govern- 
or Caswell, 131 ; solicits aid of 
Sevier, 140. 

Blount, William, appointed Govern- 
or of the Southwest Territory, 
223 ; his character, 223 ; anecdote 
of, 225 ; attends treaty of Hol- 
ston, 231 ; removes to Knoxville, 
233 ; builds house there, 234. 

Campbell, Arthur, proposes to an- 
nex Backwater Settlements to 
the State of Franklin, 114. 

Campbell, Judge David, addresses 
Governor Caswell, 89, 90 ; second 
letter to the same, 113 ; refuses to 
arrest Sevier, 199 ; made Terri- 
torial judge, 223. 

Caswell, Richard, Governor of 
North Carolina, 51 ; his admirable 



character, 52, 53 ; letter to Se- 
vier, 53, 54 ; the same, 95, 96 ; 
letter to Evan Shelby, 131 ; mani- 
festo, 134-136; its surprising 
effects, 137. 

Cession by North Carolina of trans- 
Alleghany country to the United 
States, 21 ; consternation at, of 
western settlers, 23, 24. 

Cherokees, animosity of, 44 ; begin 
hostilities, 75, 76 ; attack French 
Broad settlers, 150 ; inflamed to 
madness by the murder of Old 
Tassel, 180, 181 ; sue to Sevier 
for peace, 195 ; treaty of Holston 
with, 230 ; make a final treaty, 
285 ; friendship to Sevier, 286. 

Churches, backwoods, 258. 

Clarke, General Elijah, letter to Se- 
vier, 111. 

Clergymen, character of the early, 
258. 

Cocke, General William, marches 
to relief of French Broad settlers, 
80; holds talk with Cherokees, 
81-84 ; addresses North Carolina 
Legislature, 90-94 ; letter to El- 
holm, 145. 



318 



INDEX. 



Congress, its limited powers under 
the Confederation, 21. 

Convention, constitutional, of 
Franklin, 64. 

Cowan, Samuel and Arthur, among 
the first settlers of Knoxville, 
230 ; their " wonderful " store, 
260, 261. 

Cozby, Major, heroic rescue of Se- 
vier, 204-212 ; removes to vicini- 
ty of Knoxville, 230 ; defends his 
house from Indian attack, 254 ; 
neighbor to Sevier, 312. 

Creeks, treaty with, 224. 

Dyke, a Tory, plots to murder Se- 
vier, and is betrayed by his wife, 
207 ; is hanged, 208. 

Elholm, Major, letter to Governor 
of Georgia, 100, 101 ; present at 
attack on Tipton's house, 152. 

Franklin, State of, formed, 34 ; ter- 
ritory of, 35^ population of, 36; 
currency, 4Q, 41 ; coins silver, 
41 ; concludes treaty wiJh Chero- 
kees, 42 ; calls for volunteers to 
aid Georgia, 102 ; feeling in, to- 
ward North Carolina, 113; pros- 
perity in, 126 ; civil disturbances, 
129; expires, March 1, 1788, 
137. 

Franklin, Benjamin, letter from, to 
Sevier, 143, 144. 

French Broad settlers, account of, 
158-161; anarchy among, 220; 
a government drafted for them 
by Sevier, 220. 



Georgia, prepares to war upon the 
Creeks, 99 ; appoints Sevier brig- 
adier-general, 99 ; appeals to him 
for aid, 147. 

Greeneville, Tennessee, description 
of, 163, 164. 

Hopewell, treaty of, 61, 63. 

Houston, Rev. Samuel, his constitu- 
tion, 64-66 ; co-operates with 
Tipton, 70. 

Hubbard, Major James, kills Untoo- 
la, 44 ; decoys Old Tassel to his 
death, 178. 

Jackson, Andrew, present at Se- 
vier's rescue, 213 ; at his inaugu- 
ration, 266 ; challenges Sevier to 
a duel, 305 ; his character at this 
time, 307. 

Johnston, Governor of North Caro- 
lina, orders arrest of Sevier for 
high treason, 198. 

Kentucky, population of, 270. 

Kirk, a settler, murder of his fam- 
ily, 175, 176; son of, murders 
Cherokee chieftains, 178, 179. 

Knoxville, settlement of, by James 
White and James Conner, 226 ; 
White's fort built, 228; threat- 
ened with attack, 236-239 ; " Ga- 
zette " established, 256 ; postal 
service, 256 ; rapid growth of, 
260 ; old buildings remaining in, 
268. 

McEwin, Harriet, bravery at Hous- 
ton's Station, 185. 



INDEX. 



319 



Mann, Mrs. George, heroic defense 
of her home and children, 255. 

Martin, Governor Alexander, of 
North Carolina, unwise course 
with the Cherokees, 45, 46 ; man- 
ifesto of, 49-51. 

Martin, Joseph, Indian agent, his 
treacherous course, 55-57 ; holds 
a council with the Cherokees, 55- 
60; letter to Governor Caswell, 
60 ; secures treaty of Hopewell, 
61 ; in command of western mili- 
tia, 162 ; treacherous designs, 
162, 163; letters to Governor 
Johnston and General Kennedy, 
169, 1*70 ; claims payment for his 
defeated soldiers, 217; removed 
from command, and sinks into 
obscurity, 217. 

North Carolina, early settlers of, 2 ; 
character of the population in the 
Revolution, 3-6 ; financial condi- 
tion, 20 ; cedes western territory 
to the United States, 21 ; repeals 
cession act, 27 ; partial election 
law, 68-70 ; action of the Legisla- 
ture, 97; settlers' dissatisfaction 
with, 221 ; again cedes trans- 
Alleghany country to the United 
States, 222. 

Partial election law, 69, 70. 

Pioneer life in 1796, 246-269; 
great change in, consequent upon 
peace with the Cherokees, 287. 

Robertson, James, proposes to join 
Franklin, 101 ; solicits aid of Se- 



vier, 140 ; advocates the removal 
of Sevier's disabilities, 216 ; vis- 
its and pacifies the Cherokees, 
226 ; meets Sevier at Holston 
treaty, 231. 

Settlers, early, of North Carolina, 
2 ; their character at the Revolu- 
tionary period, 3-6 ; early set- 
tlers on the Watauga, 6-9 ; hold 
convention at Jonesboro, 25 ; 
decide to form an independent 
State, 26, 27. 

Sevier, Catharine, plans the rescue 
of her husband, 206 ; thwarts a 
plot to murder him, 207. 

Sevier, John, his character, 10, 11 ; 
early history, 1 1-14 ; his first 
visit to Watauga, 15 ; personal 
magnetism, 16, 17; attitude to- 
ward North Carolina, 28 ; op- 
poses secession, 28, 29; makes 
the one mistake of his lifetime, 
3 1 ; explanation of his course, 32- 
34; elected Governor of Frank- 
lin, 34 ; how he executed a diffi- 
cult task, 36-38 ; concludes a 
treaty with Cherokees, 46-48 ; 
letter to Governor Caswell, 51; 
his mild but efficient rule, 55 ; 
put in peril by the treaty of 
Hopewell, 63; address to the 
convention, 67 ; invades the Che- 
rokee country, 76-80 ; makes 
overtures to North Carolina, 85- 
88 ; appointed brigadier-general 
by Georgia, 99 ; alternatives, re- 
bellion or ruin to Watauga, 103 ; 
reception of Spanish overtures, 



320 



INDEX. 



Ill ; military resources, 114, 115 ; 
letter to Governor Caswell, 119; 
agreement with Evan Shelby, 123- 
125; urged to forcibly resist North 
Carolina, 132 ; solicits interces- 
sory offices of Georgia, 134; a 
private citizen, but a military 
leader, 137-139 ; sends aid to 
Robertson, 140, 141 ; contracts 
debts for that purpose, 141, 142 ; 
elected member of the Cincinnati, 
141 ; makes another attempt at 
reconciliation, 146, 147 ; calls for 
volunteers to aid Georgia, 148 ; 
outlawed by North Carolina, 149 ; 
goes to the rescue of the French 
Broad settlers, 150 ; marches 
against Tipton, 151 ; details of 
the Quaker battle, 152-156 ; con- 
ference with his officers at Green- 
ville, 165; crosses the French 
Broad, 171 ; letter to Governor 
of Georgia, 174 ; invades the 
Cherokee country, 176; his re- 
markable generalship, 1S2, 183 ; 
the French Broad conflict, 183- 
195 ; kidnapped and carried to 
North Carolina, 199-202 ; on trial 
' for high treason, but rescued by 
Major Cozby, 210-212 ; elected to 
the North Carolina Senate, 214 ; 
claims his seat, 215; disabilities 
removed, and appointed to mili- 
tary command of the western 
counties, 216; elected to Con- 
gress, 217; appointed brigadier- 
general by Washington, 223 ; re- 
moves to the extreme border, 
333 ; campaign of Etowah, 241- 



243 ; inaugurated Governor of 
Tennessee, 265-268 ; first mes- 
sage to the Legislature, 275 ; ap- 
points Tipton to office, 276 ; final 
treaty with the Cherokees, 285, 
286 ; the profound peace under 
his administration, 290 ; appoint- 
ed brigadier-general in the United 
States army, 290 ; six times 
unanimously elected Governor, 
and three times Congressman, 
291 ; his unique administration, 
292 ; popularity, 293, 294 ; mes- 
sage, 299-301 ; his poverty, 309 ; 
attempts to build and is not able 
to finish, 309 ; simple way of life, 
310-312; his death, 314; the 
State goes into mourning for his 
loss, 314. 

Shelby, Evan, appointed to com- 
mand the Watauga militia, 123 ; 
agreement with Sevier, 123 ; ap- 
peals to North Carolina for help, 
130. 

Spain, in secret league with the 
Creeks, 43 ; designs of, 99 ; state- 
ment of affairs with, 103-111; 
continued intrigues of, 232 ; treaty 
of the United States with, 276. 

Spencer, Judge, of North Carolina, 
issues warrant for Sevier's arrest, 
199; his singular death, 213. t 

Sunday among the pioneers, 258,259. 

Tatham, William, an upright law- 
yer, 297, 298. 

Tennessee, area of, 245 ; population 
of, in 1796, 271 ; admitted as a 
State, 278. 



INDEX. 



321 



Territory southwest of the river 
Ohio, formed, 222 ; William 
Blount appointed Governor, 222 ; 
the Legislature meets, 271-273. 

Thirteen colonics, characterized by 
Kev. Hugh Jones, 1 ; currency 
of, 39. 

Thomas, Isaac, names his hamlet 
Sevierville, 221. 

Tipton, John, a noisy secessionist, 
30 ; character of his family, 30, 
31 ; harangues for secession, 31 ; 
at the Franklin Convention, 66 ; 
is suddenly converted to North 
Carolina, 66 ; in North Carolina 
Senate, 73 ; speech to the Senate, 
94, 95 ; his turbulent action, 120- 
123 ; more violence from, 145 ; 
seizes Sevier's negroes, 150 ; op- 
poses the removal of Sevier's dis- 
abilities, 215 ; rencounter with 



Colonel Roddy, 215 ; musters 
five men, attacks a distillery, 
marches home, and goes out of 
history, 240, 241. 

Untoola, consequences of his kill- 
ing, 44. 

Watts, John, lays an ambuscade for 
Sevier, 79, 188 ; sues to Sevier 
for peace, 195 ; raid upon Knox- 
ville, 236 ; punished by Sevier, 
243 ; subsequent friendship with 
Sevier, 312. 

White, Hugh Lawson, kills King- 
Fisher, 243 ; his early education, 
247. 

White, James, first settler of Knox- 
ville, 226; builds a fort, 228; 
proposes to heroically defend it, 
236. 



29 



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